Check out your options: Health care coverage

There's still time to enroll for health care coverage beginning Jan. 1

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Stories like Gail Roach’s are far too common in Allegheny County.

A 57-year-old diabetic, Gail was newly retired from her job in a local school system when she discovered that maintaining her workplace health insurance premium would be a struggle. Five hundred dollars a month just wasn’t in her budget. So she did what thousands of Americans have done since Oct. 1: She explored her options under the Affordable Care Act.

With the help of the Health Insurance Marketplace telephone hotline (1-800-318-2596), Gail reviewed more than 30 different health insurance plans and found one that covered her basic needs, plus treatment for her diabetes. After tax credits based on her income, her monthly premium dropped to an incredibly low $1.11.

Gail is not the only person who stands to benefit from the new Health Insurance Marketplace. Nearly 99,000 residents of Allegheny County and 1.2 million Pennsylvanians are currently without health insurance. These are working mothers who live in fear that one unexpected illness will bankrupt their families. These are young people looking for their first quality job and unable to afford insurance. These are families afraid to let their children play sports because they couldn’t afford to pay to mend a broken leg. No family should have to worry that one sudden illness or injury could be financially ruinous.

That’s why Allegheny County and Get Covered America have been working tirelessly with a growing list of partners to help educate consumers about how they can get affordable health insurance coverage. Through grassroots organizing and community outreach, we are helping people like Gail understand their new health care options.

We are finding that many of the uninsured want help navigating the Health Insurance Marketplace. Pennsylvanians can explore the marketplace on HealthCare.gov, over the phone or in-person with a facilitator to find an insurance plan that fits their needs and budgets. You can learn more at GetCovered-America.org.

Every plan offered on the marketplace must cover the essentials: hospital visits, prescriptions, maternity care and more. Federally certified “navigators” are available to walk you through the enrollment process.

While the initial roll-out of the HealthCare.gov website was very disappointing, significant improvements have been made and we’re hearing of more and more consumers getting through the website application process.

It is now a good time to educate and mobilize consumers, not only because of the website improvements, but also because of an upcoming enrollment deadline. Anyone who wants to be covered as of Jan. 1 needs to enroll by Dec. 23.

The Affordable Care Act is not about politics. It is about providing quality, affordable health care coverage to America’s families.

Gail’s story is encouraging, and many other Pennsylvanians may find similar success in the Health Insurance Marketplace — although costs will vary according to income and family size. There is still time to explore your options and choose the plan that is best for you.

Rich Fitzgerald is Allegheny County executive and Bill England is Pennsylvania state director of Enroll America (EnrollAmerica.org).


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