Forum preps for health insurance exchanges

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Next week, Mississippi families will be able to dig into specifics on Affordable Care Act and their options for accessing insurance coverage.

On Tuesday night, a crowd gathered at the Link Centre in Tupelo to get an overview as the health care marketplace prepares to go live on Oct. 1.

“It’s coming up really fast,” said Monét Glover, community organizer with the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, which is spearheading an umbrella organization called Cover MS to help connect Mississippi’s uninsured.

Advocates expect 275,000 Mississippians to enroll in insurance plans through the marketplace, Glover said. An estimated 229,000 will qualify for some kind of subsidy.

Through the exchange, subsidies will be available to families who are up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line. Cost-sharing also will be available for low-income families who choose silver level plans.

“This program will be great for those who are uninsured for whatever reason,” said Sharon McAlister, community outreach coordinator for Magnolia Health Plan, which will offer the Ambetter plans that will be the choice for most Northeast Mississippi counties. Alcorn and Tishomingo county residents will have Humana plans to choose from on the exchange.

Individuals who sign up for coverage by Dec. 15 will have health coverage in place on Jan. 1. Open enrollment will run until March 31, 2014.

A family of four making $35,325 annually – 150 percent of the federal poverty level – would receive about $9,200 in subsidies and have a $117 monthly premium for coverage for a silver plan, Glover said.

“It’s really based on what your family can afford and how much coverage you want,” Glover said.

Consumers don’t have to purchase on the exchange to meet the individual mandate, and those who don’t qualify for subsidies will want to shop around outside the marketplace.

Helpful hints offered at Tuesday night’s program:

• Make a list of questions you need answered.

• Make sure you understand how coverage works.

• Have basic household income information and tax forms.

• Know your budget.

• Set up an account at healthcare.gov.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com