Local agencies prepare to offer Obamacare assistance - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

On eve of Obamacare enrollment, local agencies prepare to offer assistance

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MADISON (WKOW) -- On Tuesday, millions of Americans can start enrolling for health insurance through the federal exchange set up under the nation's Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.

44 year-old Maggie Ackley of Madison is one of those people who will have to enroll.  She says she has been without health insurance for the last decade.

"Primarily I work as a waitress, so, its not a job where you can get any kind of benefits normally," said Ackley.

She says just the mere mention of Obamacare makes her feel overwhelmed.

"It's very confusing, it really is," said Ackley.

Its a boat that most of the uninsured population targeted by the Affordable Care Act is in.

"For our organization, its going to affect about seven thousand people," said Elissa Sprecher, a Certified Application Counselor with Access Community Health Centers, which provides health care to low-income people.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin) chose to reject an expansion of Medicaid in Wisconsin, which means anyone earning more 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) will be dropped from the state's BadgerCare program next year.  100 percent of FPL equates to an annual income of $11,490 for an individual, or $23,550 for a family of four.

More than 90 thousand people statewide will lose BadgerCare coverage in 2014 and most will have to acquire private health insurance through the federal exchange.

"Its a change and change is always difficult going into the marketplace understanding the new process, identifying a health plan that you're comfortable with and selecting it," said Bobby Peterson, Executive Director of ABC For Health, one of several area agencies that is offering assistance to people seeking to enroll in Obamacare.

Access Community Health Centers is doing an enrollment outreach at one of the places where hundreds of uninsured individuals go each day.  Access has hired four Certified Application Counselors to help people enroll right at the Dane County Jobs Center.

They will remain there through the entire application period that ends next March.  The counselors' goal is to make sure people like Maggie Ackley understand the online enrollment system, but also how to access the most affordable options available to them.

"When you go online with your application, you put in your income, it will prompt you to let you know what your premium tax credit will be and what kind of cost sharing subsidy you'll be eligible for," said Sprecher.

The counselors will also make sure the coverage is tailored for each individual's needs.

"Depending on how many times you go to the Doctor during the year, you may want to choose a more expensive plan to cover more of your visits," said Sprecher. 

That is music to Maggie Ackley's ears.

"I figure I'll use them as a resource to figure out how to navigate through everything," said Ackley.

Here is a list of some websites that are offering resources and assistance to people seeking to enroll in an insurance plan through Obamacare: 

Checklist:  What you need when signing up for Obamacare

Help from Healthcare.gov

How Does Healthcare Reform Affect You

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