PRINCETON — While the deadline to enroll in a marketplace insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act ended March 31, in-person counselors are still out and about educating citizens about the new qualifications for the Medicaid program.
Deb Roush, in-person counselor with the Tri-County Opportunities Council, explained with the new Affordable Care Act law, Illinois was one of the states that chose to expand the Medicaid program to cover low income adults who were not caregivers.
“This is a big step. There are a lot of people in this area who fall into this category and may not know they are eligible now,” explained Roush. “With Medicaid, people can apply and enroll anytime, any day of the year. There is no deadline.”
Medicaid targets those who make little to no income. Individuals who make less than $315 a week and couples who make less than $425 a week can now qualify for Medicaid coverage.
“There is a lot of misinformation around about the Affordable Care Act. If people are not aware of how it works and what it offers, they tend to automatically think ‘I don’t make much money; I can’t afford anything.’ When the fact is they can with this Medicaid program,” Roush explained.
While it has been explained to many that those who didn’t enroll in health coverage would face a penalty, Roush explained that citizens who are under the filing threshold, who make less than around $10,000 a year, will not be penalized for not having insurance.
“Also, the new law won’t penalize those who qualified for Medicaid for the time they weren’t covered,” she said, pointing out that people who may be afraid of a penalty, have no need to worry about paying that extra fee.
Local community agencies like Tri-County Opportunities Council and Bureau and Putnam Health Department have partnered with the Department of Human Services, providing local in-person counselors who can assist people with the program application.
Currently, outreach workers are targeting the low income population to make sure they have health coverage. Those who do not are encouraged to meet with counselors to help get enrolled.
Roush is one of many who plans to be out in the community making sure everyone is covered under the new law.
“I plan to attend churches, social services,and businesses to try to get the word out and help as many people as possible,” she said. “There are some people who haven’t had health coverage in 30 years, so there are a lot of questions about the new law. But overall when most become familiar with it, we see a lot of relief and happiness.”
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