It's not hard to imagine how busy Maria Forster, a certified health coverage guide, has been since October. With the first deadline to obtain health insurance through Connect For Health Colorado by Jan. 1 over, the open enrollment to receive health insurance continues through March 31.
For those who have called Connect For Health Colorado for insurance through the new exchanges or Delta County Human Services for expanded Medicaid services, one realizes that each knows its procedures but not necessarily what the other one is doing.
As a health insurance consumer, what do you do when neither can answer your question or provide the help you are looking for? Get in touch with a certified health coverage guide. In Hotchkiss, Paonia and Crawford, that means call Maria Forster. She understands the entire process from initial application through the Medicaid approval or denial, and then the selection of a policy through the Connect For Health Colorado insurance exchanges. Forster is knowledgeable, and if she doesn't know the answer, she knows how to find the answer. That's invaluable as persons are going through this new process for the first time.
Maria Forster is with Volunteers of America and does not promote any specific insurance company or plan. She can be reached at the Creamery Arts Center in Hotchkiss at 872-2233.
"I find that many people have been able to go ahead and proceed on their own. Some of those people called me asking for general guidance. They may have had a bump in the road, but many people were able to go ahead and do it. I helped a lot of people because the process is a challenge. It takes longer than people anticipate," Forster said. "For the most part it has gone pretty smoothly considering it's the first time ever doing this. The Connect For Health Colorado site is being constantly improved."
She has been thinking that a tutorial would be a good idea that would basically explain what is involved in applying. But that is for a future improvement. Right now, she suggests everyone have their income sources available so they are prepared.
"Preparation is really key. Thinking about what your income will be in 2014, and having those numbers with you, your sources. You will be led into the Medicaid site to be able to obtain your advance premium tax credits and other assistance. It is all very linked and is important. Have [family members'] Social Security numbers, birth dates, full names," she said.
Those who have completed the application have asked why everyone has to go through a Medicaid application when they already know their income exceeds the Medicaid limit?
"The Affordable Care Act requires that people get sorted out so there isn't a duplication of services. So, if we don't have a system to make sure that Maria is either on Medicaid or in Connect For Health Colorado, in theory, I could potentially over insure myself and get tax credits and Medicaid," Forster said.
Connect For Health Colorado reconciles our income based on our tax return. Our tax return does not show if we also get Medicaid. So everyone goes through the Medicaid qualifications, and those with the Medicaid denial number can purchase insurance through the exchanges available with Connect For Health Colorado.
Forster adds, "I understand that Connect For Health Colorado is looking at ways to simplify that, but they do have to comply with the Affordable Health Care Act."
By the end of December, 51,728 people had signed up for insurance. In that figure are 318 from Delta County. The number of uninsured in Delta County is 24.8 percent among 19-64 year olds or 4,864 people as of 2010. Those uninsured in the state among the same age group are 20.1 percent of the population.
Open enrollment for Connect For Health Colorado ends March 31. The next enrollment period will be from Oct. 15 to Dec. 4, 2014.
Expanded Medicaid can always be applied for and is not governed by the above dates. Expanded Medicaid is being paid for by the federal government until 2016 and then the state will pay a small percentage of the Medicaid benefits.
What is Forster hearing from those who have completed the process?
"They have been delighted. They have been relieved. Some people have been paying through the nose for health insurance to the point it has almost broken them. And other people have never had health insurance and they have been living with the fear. Other people say, 'I'm pretty healthy, but I know it's a good idea to have health insurance to lower my risk.' Because a lot of bankruptcies are due to medical bills. When you look at the broader viewpoint of the community, it helps our community as a whole for people to be able to pay for their medical services," Forster said.
Contact Maria Forster at 872-2233 for assistance.blog comments powered by Disqus