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Local Organizations Gearing Up For Health Insurance Markeplace

The next phase of the Affordable Care Act starts Tuesday, October 1. That's when those without health insurance can view options and buy coverage through the Healthcare Marketplace.

The marketplace will be open for business on time, but some local agencies won't be prepared to help clients enroll in an insurance plan just yet. The Sangamon County Health Department is one of those agencies.

Those helping with the enrollment process, in-person counselors, must be trained and certified. The department has 10 employees who have completed training, with eight more in the process, but the counselors haven't received their certification yet.

While many local organizations plan to help implement the next phase of Obamacare, not everyone will have certified counselors.

"If you have the title of In-Person Counselor or Navigator, those are people who have received grant money to help in the outreach and enrollment process," Amanda Kozar, Regional Community Outreach Coordinator with Get Covered Illinois, said.

Illinois received $27 million in federal grants to train counselors. These counselors include existing employees or new hires within the organizations that received grant money.

The process of becoming a certified in-person counselor is lengthy. It requires about eight hours of online training and two days of in-person training for the state, plus online federal training that takes about 20 hours.The next step after completing the training is applying for certification with the Department of Insurance. That's currently holding up the Sangamon County Department of Public Health.

Before they begin working with clients, they have to be certified, and there's a good chance they won't get that certification until next week.

The Family Guidance Center had better luck.

"We first started with our own clients, and started registering for appointments with them to get them insured, because we have a lot of clients that come through that simply don't have insurance," Delilah Nelson with the center said.

The center has certified counselors, and they're ready to help clients find out what kind of assistance they qualify for, and what insurance plans will best suit them. Appointments are filling up quickly, and need to be scheduled in advance.

The process for getting assistance is simple, Kozar said.

"Basically people can call ahead now to their local community organization that have been designated as partners with Get Covered Illinois, to find out if they're eligible for our Medicaid expansion or through private insurance through the marketplace," Kozar said. "And then once that determination has been made, and then they can actually go to the plans to see what's best for them."

Officials tell us, statewide, around 1,200 people have completed the training. If you're uninsured and need to use the marketplace, you can do it online by yourself. The actual insurance plan rates will be posted on Tuesday.

Officials hope to get as many people as possible enrolled in an insurance plan by December 15, so they will have health insurance coverage beginning January 1. Open enrollment lasts until March 31.

If you're uninsured, and fail to enroll in a health care plan, you will pay penalties on your 2014 tax return.


 
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