Health exchange goes live in Mississippi today

By Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

Mississippians will get their first look today at their options for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The federal exchange will go live today, and people will be able to see prices and subsidies for which they qualify. Because funding for the Affordable Care Act is considered mandatory, it will be unaffected by any government shutdown.

“They need to look and weigh their options right now,” said Roy Mitchell, executive director of the Mississippi Health Advocacy Program, which is leading a coalition of health groups aiding with sign-up.

Open enrollment will run until March 31. Those who sign up by Dec. 15 will have coverage starting Jan. 1. So people have time to shop around on and off the exchange, gather their paperwork and consider.

The health insurance exchange is primarily designed for people who can’t access health insurance through their employer.

“I know a lot of people have questions,” said Melissa Kuykendall, outreach and enrollment coordinator with Access Family Health Care, a community health center with facilities in Tupelo, Smithville, Houlka and Tremont.

Kuykendall, a social worker trained as a certified application counselor, will be available to the community as well as the Access Family Health patients at its Gloster Creek Village office in Tupelo.

“You need to look at what’s best for your family,” Kuykendall said.

The Affordable Care Act requires all Americans to secure health insurance or face a penalty starting on their 2014 taxes. The penalty is waived for people who fall below a certain income level and those who can’t find insurance for less than 9.5 percent of their income.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com