Did you Sign Up for Health Care Yet? Affordable Care Act December 23 Deadline For January 1, 2014 Start Up

By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

With so much controversy and mis-information swirling around the meanstream press about the Affordable Care Act, glitches, difficulty signing up, etc., very little of a practical nature has been forthcoming; or has had to really struggle to see the light of day.  So, I'm going to try to bring some of this down front in a way you can understand.

Today is December 20, 2013.  The deadline for signing up if you want your Affordable Health Care Coverage to start on January 1, is Monday, December 23, 2013.  Now that is not the absolute deadline, it's just the deadline for receiving those benefits at first roll out.  Don't get it twisted and think that because December 23 has come and gone it's too late for future coverage.  The final deadline for signing up for The Affordable Health Care Plan is March, 2014.  

That said, I must admit, when I received a communique from President Obama (not that he calls be about anything; but he should) I saw the date and freaked out.  I had promised my mother and brother in Oklahoma City, OK that I would gather all the relevant information about the Affordable Care Act (personally I call it the "OBAMA CARES" ACT - because he does) and mail it to them via snail mail.  Why snail mail?  Because neither my mother who is 90, nor my brother have a computer.  There are just some things that folks in that age bracket have not adapted to, and a computer is one of them.  In fact, I daresay there are tons of families out there right now who have not signed up for Obama Cares for that very reason - they are not computer literate, and may not have any one in their family who is. 

The other thing is this: my mother and brothers live in a rep-ugly-con (republican for the uninitiated) dominated state, where they are doing their best to either discourage participation, or deprive them completely of the benefits.  There is a ton of mis-information generated or the information is delayed or distorted, or not delivered at all - leaving them in a gap when it comes to knowing what to do, and how to do it.  Those of us on the East Coast may be taking it for granted that because we have first hand information, it's available everywhere - but that is unfortunately not the case.

So, at Four AM this morning, I'm totally freaked out, because all of a sudden here it is, Monday is December 23, and I haven't gotten one bit of information for my Mom and my brothers as promised.  This makes me a terrible daughter.  

However, as always, President Obama has anticipated this little glitch, and all I had to do was log on to the website, go on the chatline and communicate with  "Amy," a very helpful counselor to get the information I needed to help my family.  (a transcript of the chat follows the letter below).

You may have received this letter.  If you did, don't ignore it, whether it's for yourself or someone in your family.  Check it out, you might be able to help a neighbor or a friend, if you've already signed up.  Or, if you're like most of us who emigrated North from the rep-ugly-con dominated southern states, your family who remains there, needs your help in making sure their rights are not violated by political motivations and machinations.  

The White House, Washington

Good evening --
The Affordable Care Act has been in the news a lot recently -- and increasingly for the right reasons.
The law is working: Already, nearly 365,000 people across the country have picked private plans through the Marketplace -- and 800,000 more are on track to get Medicaid through their states. These are people for whom health insurance might not have previously been an option -- people who in the past might have been discriminated against for simple medical conditions like asthma, or who may have been dropped from their coverage just because they got sick.
Now, thousands of Americans are signing up for coverage every day. That matters. It means financial security for families all across the country. It means freedom from the fear that one illness or accident might cost you everything you've worked so hard to build.
If you don't have health insurance, go to HealthCare.gov right now and sign up. You can compare plans based on your own needs and budget, and you can sign up for coverage.
And if you do it before December 23rd, you can be covered on the first day of the New Year.
Now, if you already have health insurance, I'm asking you right now to help make sure that your friends, neighbors, coworkers, and the people you go to college or church with know the facts about how they can get covered, too. Moms and dads, remind your kids this holiday season. And if you've recently signed up, tell your friends.
I'm asking you to spread the word about getting covered -- and we're providing some tools to help you do it.
Whether you talk to a family member, share a photo or a story on Facebook, tweet using the hashtag #GetCovered, or walk a friend or colleague through the website -- your effort will make a difference right now.
That's because the most important source of information about this law isn't going to be me, or anyone here at the White House. It's going to be you, telling the people you know to check out HealthCare.gov for themselves, and make their own decision about getting covered.
Tens of millions of people have already felt the benefits of reform, from free, recommended preventive care like mammograms, to more affordable prescription medications. But there are millions more of our fellow citizens who stand to be helped -- and we've got to make sure they know exactly how.
Thanks for your help.
President Barack Obama

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My situation in Oklahoma is further complicated because my mother has been caring for one of my brothers who is suffering from schizophrenia, and has been incapacitated since the age of 19.  She's 90.  He should have been given SSI, but was denied - we have no idea why - so his health care has been covered by her insurance.  Mom's a former postal worker - theoretically her coverage is good - but she is 90.  His would be what one would call a pre-existing condition in insurance parlance.  Couple that with the fact that he has no income - the situation becomes pretty hairy.  And though I have a younger brother who oversees both their well being, the health issue is a major challenge.

Well needless to say I was very gratified to find out that there is a 24 hour chatline available and that the person on the other end was knowledgeable and helpful.  This is an excerpt from the Chat with the ACA counselor:

[03:47:52 am]: Thanks for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. Please wait while we connect you to someone who can help.

[03:48:34 am]: Welcome! You're now connected to Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat.
Thanks for contacting us. My name is Amy. To protect your privacy, please don't provide any personal information, like Social Security Number, or any other sensitive medical or personal information.
[03:48:41 am]: Amy
Welcome to the Health Insurance Marketplace. How may I help you?
[03:49:46 am]: Gloria
My brother, who suffers from ------------- lives in Oklahoma City; he is 63; he is living with my mother who is 90 years old. He does not have insurance, and has been ill since 19 years of age, and was carried by my mother's insurance - she is a retired postal worker. How can we get him insured?
[03:50:59 am]: Amy
That's a good question. I'll be happy to help. Does he file his own taxes, or is he a dependant on someone else's tax return?
[03:52:33 am]: Gloria
He suffers from ------------- - he does not have taxes; he has been dependent on my mother since he developed the illness at age 19; he was eligible for SSI, but has never received it. He has been and is dependent on my 90 year old mother.
[03:53:26 am]: Amy
OK. And is it just him who needs coverage? Or does your mother also need new health insurance coverage?
[03:55:13 am]: Gloria
My mother was a US postal worker for 35 years; she has very good coverage, as far as I can ascertain. I live in New York, so I'm not totally sure; but at the present time we really do need to focus on him. I don't want to call him a burden; but we don't know how much longer my mom has on this earth; and he has not been receiving the appropriate medical attention of someone with his presenting problems.
[03:58:02 am]: Amy
OK. Thanks for clarifying the situation. Since he is living with your mother and is her dependant, she should fill out a Marketplace Application, either online at Healthcare.gov or over the phone at 1-800-318-2596. You can certainly help her, if she wishes. She should list both herself and your brother on the application, but should then indicate that she needs coverage for only him, not herself.
[03:58:07 am]: Amy
This information is required because their eligibility for lower costs on premiums will depend on the number of people in their family and their household income. This information helps us make sure everyone gets to apply for affordable coverage.
[03:58:41 am]: Amy
The new health care law makes affordable health insurance available to more people with disabilities. Specifically, the health care law prohibits most insurance plans from denying coverage or charging more because someone has a disability or pre-existing health condition. In addition, insurance companies can no longer impose yearly or lifetime dollar limits on coverage.
[03:59:56 am]: Amy
State Medicaid programs also offer additional services for long-term care at home and in the community. The health care law also expands Medicaid to cover more people. Besides free or low-cost coverage through Medicaid, your brother may also qualify for lower costs on monthly premiums and out-of-pockets costs through the Marketplace. The results of your mother's application will let her and you know what programs and discounts he qualifies for.
[04:02:17 am]: Gloria
My major question is where is the registration facility in Oklahoma City - my mother does not have a computer - at 90 she barely knows what a computer is; I'm not there to help them; is there a way this can be done on a walk in basis; or is there a home visit option for elderly people in Oklahoma City. I know it's a republican dominated state; and I am concerned that they may not be providing what is necessary for the people who need the assistance to enroll in the programs.
[04:03:39 am]: Amy
There are in-person assisters in every state. I'd be happy to find an organization that can help her. Could you please tell me her zip code?
[04:04:02 am]: Gloria
Yes, the zip code is 73---
[04:04:26 am]: Amy
Thank you. Please wait while I look up that information.

[04:10:27 am]: Amy
Thanks so much for waiting. I found 2 organizations within 10 miles of that zip code that provide in-person assistance with filling out the Marketplace application and enrolling in coverage. I have addresses and websites for both, but a phone number only for the first - sorry about that. Here they are:
[04:10:32 am]: Amy
Oklahoma Primary Care Association
4300 N. Lincoln Blvd.
(404) 424-2282

3801 Nw 63Rd Street
[04:11:31 am]: Amy
I advise that you contact them and explain your mother's needs. They can then tell you what they can do to help specifically.
[04:13:01 am]: Gloria
you made a typo in our area code - it's 405, not 404. thanks for your help.
[04:14:17 am]: Amy
Sorry about that! I copied it directly from our partner information. I will let the technical team know about the error. Thanks.

Is there anything else I can help you with today?
[04:14:36 am]: Gloria
does heartline have a phone number
[04:15:22 am]: Amy
No, I'm sorry, I don't have one listed for them. You may find one via their website, but I am not able to access that from my system.
[04:16:18 am]: Gloria
ok - thanx again - Merry Christmas
[04:16:37 am]: Amy
You too.
[04:16:38 am]: Amy
Thank you for contacting Health Insurance Marketplace Live Chat. We are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
[04:16:44 am]: Your chat session is over. Thanks for contacting us, and we hope we've answered your questions. Have a great day.
[04:16:44 am]: 12/20/2013

With some further investigation of the links that were included in the letter from the White House, I found that there were 75 other organizations that will help with signing up for The Affordable OBAMA CARES Act in Oklahoma City, OK - a surprising number considering the bashing it's been taking in the media.  So it taught me something else - don't believe the hype or the gripe being foisted upon us by the negative mean stream media.  It's a mind game - it's anti-Obama propaganda.  Yahoo - yes, the internet server - has been particularly vitriolic, which makes me think it's rep-ugly-con owned and dominated - they've had little to no positive things to say about it since the roll out, and though things are moving together much more positively, the criticism from their Yahoo News has been particularly hostile.  So beware of what's being passed off as news.  I've already warned my FaceBook friends about Newsmax and their bogus "surveys," which are little more than the means by which they take snipe shots at the President.  Just make sure you check out the sources as completely as possible before you swallow the "Kool-Aid."  

In rep-ugly-con dominated states like Pennsylvania, where Gov. Corbett has not complied with the tenets of the act, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter Mayor Michael A. Nutter announced the open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act will begin October 1, 2013.  He encouraged uninsured Philadelphians to research and compare plans and enroll in a plan that meets their needs.   In so doing, he has partnered with Enroll America in making sure Philadelphians are getting the assistance they need.  "

Today, thousands of Philadelphians go uninsured, risking their physical, mental, emotional and fiscal health,” said Mayor Nutter.  “The Affordable Care Act will ensure the affordability and accessibility to healthcare for every citizen in our city, state and nation.  I want to encourage Philadelphians to do their own research and enroll in a plan that works for them and their families because Philadelphians deserve a healthcare system that works in their best interest and provides high-quality, affordable care.”  Coverage can begin as early as January 1, 2014.  Open enrollment for 2014 health insurance coverage closes March 31, 2014.  Individuals will only be eligible for 2014 enrollment if a qualifying life event, like loss of a job, birth or divorce occurs.  Health Insurance Marketplace assistance is free and available online at www.healthcare.gov or by phone at 1-800-318-2596 or 1-855-889-4325.

Additional Affordable Care Act resources are available online at www.enrollamerica.org and www.getcoveredamerica.org or on the City of Philadelphia’s Health Department website at www.phila.gov/health/commissioner/healthreform.html.  Philadelphians can also call 311 for assistance and referrals

As stated in the the White House letter, this is not time for formalities.  Once you've gotten your own health care taken care of, turn around and help somebody else.  It's the right thing to do.  
 So have a wonderful, healthy, happy, blessed holiday - Christmas/Kwanzaa, or whatever you celebrate during this season. 

Stay Blessed &
Gloria Dulan-Wilson


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