More information about health-care coverage under the Affordable Care Act is available at the United States Department of Health and Human Services’ website, www.hhs.gov/healthcare.
The first open enrollment for health-insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act ended Monday. State Rep. Al Williams, D-Midway, held two enrollment sessions in Hinesville and Midway on Saturday to register uninsured residents before the deadline.
“Over six million Americans have already signed up for insurance coverage,” Williams said.
The goal, he added, was to have 7 million Americans signed up by Monday night. According to the Washington Post, President Barack Obama announced Tuesday that 7.1 million Americans signed up for health plans.
“(The Affordable Care Act) is the best thing to happen to America in a very long time,” Williams said. “Believe me, it helps everyone.”
The act was signed into law by Obama on March 23, 2010, and gives uninsured Americans a chance to compare and select insurance coverage. Open enrollment began in October 2013, and consumers had until Monday night to sign up for coverage that starts this year.
The successful enrollment Monday followed years of public criticism.
“Don’t be misled by the foolishness you hear on television,” Williams said. “It is all political and has nothing to do with health care.”
Despite the backlash, the number of enrollees surpassed expectations.
“I was surprised to see how successful enrollment was after so many people have been fighting it for this long,” Williams said. “Fighting it has only made it harder for people to learn more about how they can benefit from it.”
Families who attended Saturday’s enrollment session in Hinesville still were unsure of their benefits.
“With all the fighting back and forth, it has been hard to get the right information,” said Anita Scott, a Liberty County resident who stopped by Williams’ session to enroll her 24-year-old daughter. “Time is running out, and I need to know now how this program will benefit us.”
Scott’s husband is a retired service member, so they are insured under TRICARE. Their daughter, Kirstin, does not have a job and is uninsured.
“The program seems like a good option for my daughter,” Scott said. “I think it will help a lot of people, and I’m glad we have people like Mr. Williams putting the information out there instead of fighting it.”
Williams enrolled Kirstin and others during Saturday’s session after explaining the program benefits for the uninsured population.
“The act is meant for those Americans who are uninsured and who can’t afford insurance on the open market or through their employer,” he said. “It was never designed for people with health insurance.”
Deductibles are determined by the participant’s financial situation, he said. In some instances, a member may pay nothing for coverage.
“The quickest way to go bankrupt is to go to the hospital uninsured,” Williams said. “Medical bills are so high, an uninsured person can spend the rest of their lives paying them off.”
Insured participants now will be able to receive care from private clinics instead of flooding emergency rooms at local hospitals.
“Everyone benefits from this act, even the hospitals,” Williams said. “The emergency rooms are filled with people without insurance, and now these people will be able to get care elsewhere.”
Health-insurance plans are available for Americans up to age 65. They then will be covered under Medicare. Since enrollment closed Monday, those who still are uninsured can receive coverage but with a penalty charge. Healthcare.gov states that the penalty will be $95 per person for the year or 1 percent of the person’s yearly household income, whichever is greater. A single adult with a household income below $19,650 would pay the $95 flat rate. A single adult with household income above that will pay an amount based on the 1 percent rate. No penalty is owed for anyone whose income is below $10,150.