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Health Insurance Sign Ups Begin This Weekend

photo via Flickr//opensource.com

  The open enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act begins this Saturday, November 15 and the local health care navigators are ready.

Cory Brown is the Benefits Program Manager at 90 Works in Pensacola and is one of the licensed navigators under the Affordable Care Act. She and the other navigators are currently making appointments to meet with people up and down the panhandle to enroll them through the federal government's health insurance exchange. Last year, when the healthcare.gov web site had it's now infamous opening month glitches, the navigators were helpful in helping people complete the enrollment. Brown says they were able to call in applications when the web site shut down or froze. She also says the site is working much better one year later and that people should go through the application process again this year because changes in their income or family situation could their eligibility under the program.

The Affordable care Act, also known as Obamacare by critics of the law, mandates that just about everyone in the US have health insurance, either though the government by the Medicare or Medicaid programs, through their employer, or individually through the federal or state insurance marketplaces. Since Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature refused to set up a state exchange, Floridians must use the federal marketplace. That's where the navigators come in, helping people wend their way through the system and finding the best price for each individual. Cory Brown talks about a woman who works at a local big box store whose employer no longer provided her insurance. She was able to spend a couple of hours with her and, through the marketplace found her a policy for about $575 a month, but with tax credits, her out of pocket expense was only $35  a month.

Not all people will be able to get that amount of help. Florida's legislature again refused to expand the state Medicaid system, so some low income workers will fall into what's called the "Medicaid gap". Brown says there are few options for clients in that situation. Families who fall in the gap are referred to the county health department.

This is the second year of enrollment in the insurance marketplaces, and like last year the navigators on the panhandle are working out of 90 Works in Pensacola. Stacy Ray, the Stability Services Director at 90 Works says being the home of the navigators fits with the overall mission of the organization.

During the open enrollment period last year, 90 Works was in the process of changing its name from Families Count.  Ray says being involved with the Affordable Care Act navigators helped with awareness of the new name...and she says making sure their clients had access to health care has always been a priority.

If you would like to make an appointment to talk to one of the navigators about getting insurance through the individual marketplace, you can call 855-909-67-57, extension 5. Or you can go to 90Works.org.

Here are some events where you can find the navigators and ask questions about your health insurance:

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.