OKLAHOMA CITY – —
Hugh Meade hopes he can find a health plan that costs less than his home mortgage. Katie Bolin is looking for an insurer who won’t turn her down for pre-existing conditions. Ricardo Lopez Jr. wants coverage so he can stop going to free clinics.
Meade, Bolin and Lopez are among several hundred thousand uninsured Oklahomans whose lives could change when the next phase of the Affordable Care Act takes effect.
Starting Oct. 1, Oklahomans can begin applying for private-market policies through a new federally-operated health insurance marketplace. The policies will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.
The marketplace is open to anyone who is not eligible for affordable employer-provided insurance or public insurance programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. People who fall within certain income ranges will qualify for federal tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies that will reduce their health care expenses.
Many people remain confused about the rules, although the federal government is offering information and pre-registration at www.healthcare.gov and, in Spanish, at www.cuidadodesalud.gov. The toll-free information line is 1-800-318-2596. Licensed health insurance agents and brokers can provide assistance, too.
The Kaiser Family Foundation’s online tax credit and premium cost estimator is at http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/
The coverage options available through the health-care act, widely known as Obamacare, won’t necessarily work for everyone. But for people like Meade, Bolin and Lopez, they might make sense.
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state.