There’s a lot of scrambling going on, as people race to sign up for health care before the national deadline. Today, March 31st, is the last day for most people to sign up for a plan and avoid a tax penalty. Those are the rules under the Affordable Care Act and in Colorado, many people are using the state exchange, Connect for Health Colorado, to sign up. Government agencies have been trying to make it easy for people to purchase a plan… including a recent walk in clinic last Friday, in Aspen.
A large, open room is packed in downtown Aspen. Several people have gathered at this Pitkin County building to get health insurance.
“I’m Shana Heede Hassol, I was born in Aspen Colorado, so I’ve lived here 23 years. I’m here to sign up for Connect for Health Colorado and get some Obamacare insurance!”
Shana Heede Hassol is a seasonal employee with the Aspen Skiing Company. She has her own insurance policy… it doesn’t come with work... but the plan is ending this summer.
“I needed help with my application process, so when I saw this in the paper I thought it’d be a good time to come in and get some questions answered about whether I qualify for Medicaid or not.”
That’s important, because it can affect whether you get a tax credit, which can make monthly payments more affordable. Heede Hassol has heard horror stories about people getting stuck on the statewide hotline for hours. So she here to talk with experts who can answer questions and help them seal a deal with an insurance plan. There’s a feeling of urgency in the room.
“People are coming in today with questions. They’ve been on the website, they’ve started applications, they’re not sure where their application is in the process.”
Nan Sundeen is Director of Health and Human Services for Pitkin County -- and at this event, she's making sure everything is running smoothly. There's a steady stream of people coming in the door as we talk-- and she often gets interrupted. Sundeen says there’s an hour long wait, because each expert is taking as much time as necessary to find the right plan for someone.
“We also have people who get Medicare who have questions about supplemental insurance, and I know one person came in who has adult children in their early 20’s, and she’s wondering if there's supplemental insurance for them as well, she’s got them covered on her health plan.”
The guru for many of those questions is Kathy Lyons. She's the Eagle County Economic Services Director… and she’s at Friday’s event because counties are working together to reach people who haven’t signed up for health care yet.
“Lots of questions about maybe I’m eligible for Medicaid, but I don’t really want to be on Medicaid. Or, I want to get a tax credit, so how do I do that.”
Nearly seventy people visited the Pitkin County building on Friday to find health insurance plans... and Lyons says there may be people who aren't able to sign up until today, Monday March 31st. So if that's you, she says, don't give up.
”We have a couple of options, depending on your financial situation. You can either contact one of our local health coverage guides, you can also go in and apply for Medicaid. We have a lot families who are not eligible for Medicaid, but in order to access the tax credit they need to apply and be denied Medicaid.”
And you can do that online today.
“But it has to have a March 31st receipt date on your application. By doing that it’ll preserve your opportunity if you’re denied, to then shop for insurance on Connect for Health Colorado into the beginning of May.”
If the websites for Medicaid or Connect for Health go down, Lyons says to call or visit the Pitkin, Eagle, or Garfield County department that handles human services. She promises they'll do their best to help.
For Shana Heede Hassol, Friday was an opportunity to avoid today’s last minute rush. And government officials are hoping to sign up as many new participants like her as possible. At twenty two years old, Heede Hassol fits into the demographic needed for Obamacare to offset the cost of older, more frail, people. She says she knows there’s a big push right now to get her age group on board... she appreciates the effort to make it as easy as possible.
Heede Hassol: “Well, I think this is a good idea and I like that they can have people here to help sign up. I hope it works out that I qualify and get a payment that I can afford.”
To sign up today, Monday March 31st:
To apply for Medicaid: http://coloradopeak.force.com/
To purchase insurance via the Colorado exchange, Connect for Health: www.connectforhealthco.com
For help, try:
- Pitkin County Health & Human Services: 970-920-5235
- Health coverage guide, Pitkin County: Yolanda Thierfelder, 970-471-3554. (Ms. Thierfelder is also the guide for Eagle County in El Jebel.)
- For more on Pitkin County & Medicaid: http://www.aspenpitkin.com/Departments/Health-Human-Services/Economic-Services/Medical-Assistance/
- Eagle County Health & Human Services Department, El Jebel office: 970-328-9586
- Mili Vazquez Health Assistance Network Manager at 970-328-8736 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Health coverage guide, Eagle: Maricela Pinela, 970-471-0672
- Health coverage guide, El Jebel: Yolanda Thierfelder, 970-471-3554. (Ms. Thierfelder is also the guide for Pitkin County.)
- Garfield County Human Services - Glenwood Springs: 970-945-9191
- Garfield County Human Services - Rifle: 970-625-5282
- Health coverage guide, Glenwood Springs: Jennie Quevedo, 970-471-3510
- Health coverage guide, Rifle: Sonia Acosta, 970-471-5964