Down here on the Northern Neck, we may be rural but we aren’t sitting on our hands. Maybe some of you folks in the cities could learn from us.
Earlier this year, a member of our county Democratic Committee decided we needed to DO SOMETHING to help people sign up for health insurance under the ACA. She recruited a few others to help and now — with only a few weeks left before the 31 March deadline — we are “up and running.”
1. Several local Democrats were trained as ACA volunteers. These folks can assist applicants and answer their questions but are not federal Navigators.
2. Our local library is sponsoring two sign-up clinics with one, maybe two, Navigators present to help people sign up and purchase policies.
3. A local church, through it’s separate community development corporation, is seeking certification as an ACA information center.
Here’s our news release (below the fold).
The Northumberland County Library will host two sign up clinics for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on March 22 and March 29, 2014, from 1-6 PM. The deadline for individuals who wish to sign up for coverage during 2014 without a penalty under the government program is March 31, 2014. The clinics will be manned by a Navigator, William Botts, and members of his staff from the Fredericksburg Navigator’s office as well as John Ellis, a certified volunteer from Reedville and additional local volunteers in support or administrative roles.
At these clinics, individuals will be able to ask questions about the Healthcare Marketplace and compare insurance programs. Trained Navigators will be able to assist individuals in using the website and people may purchase health insurance on the website if they wish.
Alice Cooper, Director of the library said, “Prior to the clinics, if citizens of the Northern Neck needed assistance with signing up for health insurance, they had to go all the way to Fredericksburg. The library is glad to provide its facilities for local clinics as a community service.”
Persons who wish to sign up for the clinics must pre-register and make an appointment with the Navigator’s office at 540-374-5023. Prior to calling for an appointment, the applicant should gather together three groups of information. First, the applicant will need proof of identification such as a driver’s license or government ID card, Social Security numbers of the adults and children to be covered by insurance, and if the applicant is an immigrant, he will need the Immigration Status cards for the adults and dependents and/or a Certificate of Naturalization. Second, the applicant will need income information such as the submitted 2012 or 2013 income tax forms, 2014 year to date pay stubs, and 2013 W-2s. Finally, if the applicant currently has health insurance, he will need either Medicaid or FAMIS cards or details about his employer’s insurance program including cost, benefits and when the open enrollment season is occurring. The applicant will have to bring all of this information with him to the sign up clinic for verification.
Bill Botts, the Navigator, says that depending on the complexity of an individual family’s insurance needs, “The application process can take as little as 30 minutes and as long as 2 hours”.
Individuals can also sign up on line at www.healthcare.gov/marketplace or by phone at 1-800-318-2596. The phone service with a trained counselor is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Additionally, Macedonia Baptist Church will offer informal, walk-in “friend to friend” events in its Development Center in Horsehead. The Development Center has computers and printers for the applicant’s use. These events are designed for those individuals who have partially completed an on-line application, or have encountered a problem with the application process and just need a little assistance to complete their application on-line. Macedonia will announce its schedule of events as soon as possible.
Two local not-for-profit organizations, The Food Bank and Macedonia Baptist Church have applied for status as Certified Application Counselor (CAC) organizations but the applications have not been approved yet. Once the applications are approved, each of these organizations will be able to hold local clinics with trained volunteers.
Remember — although the deadline for 2014 is 31 March, there will be another open season later this year and in coming years. We now have the mechanism in place to provide sign-up help throughout future open seasons.
By the way, some of our local Republicans aren’t happy about this. Breaks my heart.