Health insurance sign-up deadline nears

lifestyle_healthnewsBy Michaela Gibson Morris

Daily Journal

TUPELO – It’s crunch time for folks considering health insurance.

March 31 is the last day for open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace, where people who don’t receive health insurance through employers can access plans and apply for federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

“We hope this last week we can get as many as we can signed up,” said Valerie Long, executive director of CATCH Kids, which has trained navigators available at its Tupelo office to assist with the health insurance exchange.

Mid-March enrollment numbers show 28,500 Mississippians are among the 5 million Americans who have enrolled through the health insurance marketplaces since Oct. 1. Updated numbers are due to be released today in Jackson.

Investigating options through healthcare.gov or making an appointment for in-person assistance doesn’t obligate anyone to purchase health insurance.

“I’m encouraging people to ask questions,” said Melissa Kuykendall, Access Family Health’s certified enrollment counselor in Tupelo. “It’s better to get the whole picture.”

It’s important for people to consider not only the monthly premium, but the deductibles and copays that affect how much they have to pay out of pocket. The sliding scale subsidies are available to a wide range of lower and middle-income families up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line – $94,500 for a family of four.

“A lot more people qualify than they think,” Kukendall said.

People who don’t have health insurance could face a penalty on their 2015 taxes if they don’t qualify for an exemption.

Kuykendall is available until 7 p.m. today at the Access Family Health office in Midtown Pointe, formerly Gloster Creek Village, and can be available after hours by appointment.

CATCH Kids is available during regular office hours; appointments are encouraged so people don’t have to wait.

“It takes about 30 minutes to set up,” Long said.

michaela.morris@journalinc.com

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RESOURCES

By phone or online

Healthcare.gov

• Health Help – Mississippi Health Advocacy Program (877) 314-3843, or coverms.org

In-person help

• Access Family Health Outreach 844-4252 or enroll@accessfamilyhealth.com

• CATCH Kids (662) 377-2194

• Sign-up event, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Plantersville