Partners say ACA enrollment and targeting improving

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A recent round of enrollment outreach by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit that culminated with a meeting at the Franktuary restaurant in Lawrenceville is just one tactic that is helping boost Affordable Healthcare Act sign ups.

Though the session was open to all, it’s primary focus was to reach people in the restaurant business; waiters, bussers, etc. who may not have employer provided health coverage.  Since October, the AIU has partnered with a number of regional businesses and non-profit organizations in an effort to educate, inform and assist with enrollment.

In addition to their partners Enroll America, AIU also brought in Deputy Regional Administrator Roseanne Egan from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from Philadelphia to help the uninsured learn about, and access, their health coverage options under the health care law’s Health Insurance Marketplace.

Egan praised the job local partners are doing, and said she was impressed with their enthusiasm.
“They are doing a great job. It usually takes as anywhere from three to six (contacts) to get someone signed up,” said Egan. “I’m just really thankful for the partners we have.”

Egan said the Franktuary visit worked well, despite having to compete with the U.S. Olympic hockey team on the big-screen TV, even getting a few enrollees who just walked in from the street.

She said outreach teams are going where people are to get them enrolled, and was especially impressed by how helpful the Carnegie Libraries are being. She visited the Federal Street branch as part of an event sponsored by the Northside Christian Health Center.

“The libraries have been amazing here,” she said. “I saw one woman go from start to finish in an hour. Another woman who’d been trying to sign up since January talked to one of our navigators and is now insured.”

Egan said the enrollment numbers have improved substantially across the state, and as problems with the healthcare.gov webs site keep improving so should enrollment.

“Nationally, last month we had 1.1 million people sign up. In Pennsylvania we had 120,681,” she said. “That’s up 34 percent from December.”

Of those Pennsylvania enrollees, Egan said 79 percent were eligible for some level of government subsidy. She said slightly more people, 67 percent, are enrolling in Silver-level plans than are nationally, 62 percent.

The main reason for choosing the Silver plan is that in addition to covering 70 percent of covered costs (Bronze plans cover only 60 percent) at a slightly high cost, there are two subsidies available for Silver plans–one that helps pay the monthly deductible and another that helps with out-of-pocket expenses. Only the deductible subsidy is available at other levels.

Egan said the new outreach mantra of finding people where they “work, play and pray” is working.

“We have Enroll American folks going to where people are getting their taxes done. We’re going to churches. In Philadelphia, they are going to hair salons,” she said.

More importantly, Egan said they are stating to reach their target 18- to 24-year-old age group. Last month 26 percent of the state’s enrollees fell in that age bracket.

Using the HHS rate calculator at http://aspe.hhs.gov/­health/reports/2013/MarketplacePremiums/data­sheet_home.cfm, one can see that in Zone 4 (Western Pennsylvania), there are four providers offering a total of 41 plans: five Catastrophic, eight Bronze, 13 Silver, 14 Gold and one Platinum. You can plug in your age and find the monthly premium costs for least expensive policy in all categories.

For instance, a 27-year-old will pay monthly premiums of $103.69 for the cheapest Catastrophic plan, $119.19 for Bronze, $133.83 for Silver and $169 for Gold. For a 40-year-old the costs range from $126.45 for Catastrophic, $145.35 for Bronze, $163.20 for Silver and $206.09 for Gold. For a 64-year-old, the monthly cost of the cheapest Catastrophic policy is $296.82, Bronze is $341.19, Silver is $383.10 and Gold is $483.78.

“It’s tough though,” said Egan, who does not live I western Pa. “My daughter is leaving college and can’t stay on our plan. So we sat down and found the best one for her was $400 a month. Luckily, we can help her out. But like the president said, if you can afford a cell phone you can afford healthcare.”

(For more information, or to schedule an appointment with a certified health care navigator, consumers can call 1.855.668.9536 or visit HealthCare.gov.)

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