Enrollees say Obamacare makes ‘all the difference’

Published 8:15 am Monday, March 17, 2014

For Linda and Booker Larry, obtaining health insurance in any way possible was paramount.
“I’m not employed now,” Linda said, clutching a batch of literature from Magnolia Health Plan, who set up shop for five hours Thursday in the Vicksburg Auditorium to enroll people for Mississippi’s online marketplace for individuals to comply with the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
“But, yes, I was eligible and I’m insured,” she said, exiting the auditorium with palpable piece of mind. “It means all the difference in my life right now.”
The Larrys were among the few who showed up to enroll in the state’s Healthcare Insurance Marketplace, for which open enrollment ends March 31. Starting in 2015, enrolling online for health insurance through “Obamacare” with take place every fall, from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.
Magnolia is one of two insurers writing policies for individual health plans on the online exchange; the other is Humana. The company is doing so under the Ambetter brand name to distinguish it from its Medicaid sector in Mississippi, said Cheryl Smith, the insurer’s community relations manager.
On Thursday, four agents licensed to assist with the healthcare exchange helped about 10 people get started on the site. Personal information such as social security numbers and income are a must, as well as patience, Smith said.
“The first thing they do is find out whether they’re eligible,” Smith said. “Then, we let them see the plan.”
In the individual plan, eligibility depends on household size and income. Individual people who make between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level a year will receive a subsidy from the government for health insurance. The subsidy decreases the closer income reaches the 400 percent threshold, which is $45,960 for individuals and $94,200 for a four-person household.
The state’s similar program for small businesses, the Small Business Health Options Plan, is in effect. It allows businesses with 50 or fewer employees search and compare plans as required by the ACA. At least 70 percent of an employer’s workforce must participate in the SHOP to become eligible for anything offered in it.
The company’s stop in Vicksburg was part of a multi-city tour in the state to enroll people in the exchange, Smith said. Stops in Starkville, Pelahatchie, Jackson and Columbus are planned for the next week.