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Obamacare is here. Now what?

City, county officials urge uninsured to sign up

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Posted: Friday, October 4, 2013 6:00 am

The Health Insurance Marketplace opened Tuesday despite the federal government shutdown, and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said it’s every public official’s duty is to get the word out about what’s available now that a key feature of the Affordable Care Act is live.

“My message today as mayor of the city of Tucson is not a message of whether you like this act, whether you don’t like this act, whether you think it’s good or whether you don’t think it’s good, but in fact it is a resource for so many Tucsonans, and we want to educate people as to how they can take advantage of what’s now available,” he said.

Rothschild gathered representatives who can help those who hope to soon become insured to explain the basics.

People who are insured through their employer, or who are on Medicare, don’t need to visit the Marketplace. But for the uninsured, or those who are currently paying for individual coverage, the Marketplace is where to shop.

In addition, small businesses can purchase employee plans through the Small Business Health Options Program and see if they qualify for a tax credit worth up to 50 percent of their premium costs.

Pati Urias, communications lead at Enroll America of Arizona, said the ACA could benefit more than one in 10 Pima County residents, and most of those people should be able to get some help paying for their new coverage.

“We anticipate that there about 120,000 people in Pima County alone who may be eligible to look to the Marketplace for an insurance plan that could potentially meet their needs,” she said. Even better news for those potential customers: about 90 percent of them may qualify for some type of tax break or financial assistance, she said.

Computer-savvy users who know what they want should be able to enroll online at www.healthcare.gov without issue, Urias said. For more one-on-one guidance, trained “navigators” are at the El Rio Community Health Center, Pima County Health Department, St. Elizabeth’s Health Center, Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Tucson Urban League and United Way of Southern Arizona.

Amelia Cramer, Chief Deputy Pima County Attorney, urged consumers to be alert to possible scammers. Cramer said the certified navigators or the people on the other end of the official Marketplace hotline are the only ones who should receive sensitive personal, medical or financial information.

“The government is not going to call you out of the blue to set up your insurance plan. If you receive a solicitation from someone you don’t know on the phone or from someone coming to your home uninvited, be appropriately suspicious,” she said.

Rothschild said the ACA continues the legacy of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and will “protect millions more Americans from devastating financial losses due to uncovered medical bills. It will improve the health of millions more Americans who won’t have to choose between a doctor’s visit and medicine or food and rent.”

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