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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
8:50 PM Wed, Nov. 14th

Groups spreading word on Obamacare to uninsured

Arizona's uninsured population must begin enrollment for government-sponsored healthcare plans beginning Oct. 1 under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The enrollment period will conclude Dec. 31, and the state's uninsured population, which exceeds 1 million people, must obtain coverage by the new year or risk a fine.

Meanwhile, various nonprofit groups will conduct outreach campaigns to get the word out to uninsured residents of the state.

Yavapai County Community Health Services has scheduled for first such session, for its uninsured clientele, for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Chino Valley Senior Center, 1021 W. Butterfield Road. Uninsured people account for 55 percent of the clients at Community Health Services, which provides primary care.

Community Health Services also scheduled meetings on "Understanding the Marketplace and How it Affects You" at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Oct. 15 in the Prescott Gateway Mall.

Community Health Services staff will provide help with enrollment at the meetings after Oct. 1 for anyone interested, David McAtee, community relations/public information officer, stated in an email. Staff also will make appointments for its clients to visit one of Community Health Services' three centers for meetings one on one with certified application counselors.

McAtee said Community Health Services, which provides primary care, applied for a federal grant to help pay for the outreach service. "What we are going to be doing is educating the public to what the marketplace is and then actually helping people enroll or obtain insurance through the marketplace or AHCCCS."

AHCCCS stands for Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, and is the Medicaid program that serves low-income residents in the state. Obamacare expand the number of people covered by AHCCCS, based on income.

Uninsured Arizona residents with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for coverage through an expanded AHCCCS program, Families USA, a consumer organization based in Washington, D.C., stated in a news release Friday.

Families USA estimated 463,000 Arizona residents will be eligible for AHCCCS under Obamacare.

For instance, that income threshold peaks at $15,856 for a single person and $32,499 for a family of four.

"They will be able to get comprehensive health care coverage at almost no cost," Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said in a conference call with Arizona reporters Friday.

Arizona residents who earn up to 400 percent above the poverty level will sign up through private insurers or the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace at healthcare.gov, said Jon Ford, director of communications at the St. Luke's Health Initiative, a Phoenix-based foundation.

Financial help will extend to moderate-income people who lack employer-sponsored health plans, according to the news release from Families USA. For instance, a family of four with annual incomes below $94,200 and individuals earning below $45,960 will qualify for relief.

Families USA kicked off a campaign with Arizona reporters Friday in a conference call with Pollack. Families USA stated 1,033,000 Arizona residents will be eligible to enroll with financial help beginning October but does not have the number broken down by the state's 15 counties.

Pollack said adults under the age of 26 are already benefiting through Obamacare by being covered by their parents' health insurance. Families USA estimates 69,000 young adults in Arizona are staying on their parents' plans until they turn 26.

"What we can't say at this juncture is how many people will not sign up," Pollack said. He added a lot of people have heard "the contentious debate" on Obamacare, which survived a review by the U.S. Supreme Court and numerous efforts by Republicans in Congress to repeal it.

Enrollment would have been an option for Kevin Kimsey, a Prescott real estate agent who has been uninsured since a divorce three years ago. However, Kimsey recently remarried and will be eligible for coverage through his wife's plan in December or January.

"If it was not for that, I'd probably have to read up" on Obamacare, Kimsey said.

Kimsey, 53, already has felt the sting of being uninsured. He said he received bills for about $4,000 after smashing one of his hands and checking into the emergency room at Yavapai Regional Medical Center.