Today was the first day that uninsured Americans had the opportunity to buy insurance under the new Affordable Care Act. Many went to do so online and were surprised to see screens saying “please wait” or “system is down”. That’s because so many people across the country went online to check out the new plans that the website slowed down. It’s the first of a new month, and the first chance for millions of uninsured Americans to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act — more commonly known as ‘Obamacare’. Folks living in any one of the 50 states now officially have access to the Health Insurance Marketplace, where they can check out the plans available to them through the federal government or state exchanges before they’re required to be covered at the beginning of January.
Scott Violette of Barresi Financial Inc says, “You’ll essentially be able to put your information in…your age, you can do your dependence if you’re doing family or single..and then it’ll bring up the different plans…and you can choose between a bronze plan, a silver plan, a gold plan, there may be multiples in there.”
Violette says not everyone needs to rush to log on to their computers or to pick up the phone. The only group of people who need to do anything are legal United States residents who do not currently have health insurance — which he estimates is about 8 percent of the population in Maine – and 12 percent of the population here in Aroostook County.
Violette says, “If you get your health care through MaineCare or Medicare, this will have no real effect to you. If you get your health coverage through your employer, it potentially won’t have any effect on you as well depending on whether or not your employer still offers it to you and depending on whether or not they offer affordable coverage to you.”
Whether you’re getting insured through your employer or through the state exchange, it’s important to know that the health insurance plans are going to be similar to each other and that they’re changing. When people log on or call to sign up for a plan, they’re likely to find lower out of pocket maximums, lower deductibles, and the plan will include ten minimum essential health benefits, and coverage of preexisting health conditions. Beginning at the start of the new year, individuals who are not signed up may have to pay a tax penalty – which for an adult would be either 95 dollars or one percent of your income. Both Barresi Financial Inc. and the Aroostook County Action Program are waiting to help you sign up.
Torry Eaton, Senior Manager of Employment and Training at ACAP says, “The system right now is overrun with a lot of traffic as you would expect on the first day of a new system like this so we’re encouraging people just to wait a few weeks it doesn’t matter if you sign up today or December 15th you’ll still get coverage January 1st.”
So if you’re looking to sign up, there’s a couple of ways you can go about it. Visit healthcare.gov and select Maine and go from there. If you get slowed down or need help you can contact either Barresi Financial Incorporated or the Aroostook County Action Program. We’ve got both of those numbers listed on our website. If you want to be covered by January 1st you have until December 15th, meanwhile this enrollment period ends on March 31st.