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Navigators, mandates and exchanges

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October 1st is marching towards us ever more quickly, sure to bring a flurry of new confusion and debate over the Affordable Care Act. October 1st is the magic moment when anyone in the general public will be able to start shopping for health insurance in the new “exchange” health insurance marketplace. The exchanges will feature new health insurance plans that are intended to cover at least 3 out of 5 currently uninsured people with affordable coverage.

What affordable means is relative, of course, but subsidies will be available for those who make too much for Medicaid coverage, but for whom health insurance premiums would represent an undue burden (an income of less than $45,960 for an individual). Coverage through the new exchanges will start as early as January 1, 2014.

For all the uncertainty and mystery surrounding the new plans and what exactly they will look like, it does appear that health insurance coverage will be affordable to the general public like never before. At least, it better be, since the nearly 4 million Floridians without coverage will be under a mandate, the “individual mandate”, to obtain insurance, or suffer a penalty. Proof of coverage will be required on 2014 US tax returns. Individuals not able to show proof will incur a $95 (adult) fee the first year, which rises significantly with each subsequent year.

There are two good ways the general public will be introduced to the exchanges over the next several months. First, a non-profit group called Enroll America is canvassing low income, low coverage neighborhoods as we speak to introduce people to their options. Second, federally funded “navigators” will begin their public education work beginning October 1st, as well. Navigators will receive a minimum of 20 hours training, testing, finger printing and confidentiality instruction to help individuals understand the ins and outs of each plan, according to their personal circumstances.

Learn more about the Affordable Care Act and its implications at the Florida Rural Health Association Annual Summit, November 20-23 in Gainesville Florida.  Click here to register today!