The Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace information - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

The Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace: What you need to know

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Starting Tuesday, people will be able to shop for health insurance through the federal Affordable Care Act's online marketplace.

Effective Jan. 1, the US government is requiring everybody to have health insurance, and people will face a penalty on their taxes if they don't.

KWWL spoke Monday with Angela Petsche, an outreach and enrollment coordinator through Crescent Community Health Center in Dubuque. She said the Affordable Care Act is really aimed at people who are uninsured, underinsured and not getting insurance through their employer at this time.

Those folks will be able to purchase health insurance online starting Tuesday. Depending on income level and other factors, some people will also qualify for a subsidy.

All this information and shopping is available on the same site, www.healthcare.gov -- the health insurance exchange established by the Affordable Care Act.

Whether you're a person in need of insurance or a small business owner exploring health insurance options for employees, this site asks you to plug in some information, and - starting Oct. 1 - it will provide quotes for coverage.

"You get to pick," Petsche said. "You get to say, 'This is what I get qualified for, based on my income, household members,' you live in the great state of Iowa, but then it's going to help you decide, 'What are my next choices going to be?', and it's based on your income, what your budget is and what your needs are."

Many people, however, won't have to do a thing.

People already insured through their employers and satisfied with that coverage do not have to shop for health insurance.

The same goes for seniors with Medicare - no need to shop for health insurance.

People on straight Medicaid, or Title XIX, also do not have to shop for health insurance.

People on IowaCare, the state's Medicaid waiver program that expires Dec. 31, don't have to do anything right now but may in the future. The state will look at IowaCare recipients' income levels, determine what they qualify for and send them a letter, telling them what steps to take next.

Julie Woodyard is executive director of Crescent Community Health Center.

"The Affordable Care Act....if we reach everyone that we need to reach, hopefully will cover more people with affordable insurance that may not be offered by their employer," she said, though admitting, "I think there are some unknowns with the program. We really don't know what's going to happen when it takes effect."

Open enrollment at the marketplace runs through the end of March, though people must enroll by Dec. 15 in order for coverage to kick in by Jan. 1.

"Part of the Affordable Care Act looks at, 'How do we get everyone insured?' And we want to make sure that that's available for everyone," Petsche said. "It's not just a privilege, it's a right that everyone has health insurance."

Individuals still uninsured as of Jan. 1 will face a penalty on their 2014 taxes equivalent to 1 percent of their income or $95, whichever is higher. That penalty goes up the next year.

There are a number of meetings coming up to help explain the health insurance changes under the Affordable Care Act -- both to individuals and to business owners.

Crescent Community Health Center is holding a meeting at its Wellness Center at 1805 Central Avenue in Dubuque on the following dates:

Oct. 1 at 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 11 at 12:00 p.m.

Oct. 15 at 5:30 p.m.

Oct. 18 at 12:00 p.m.

Oct. 29 at 5:30 p.m.

Organizers ask people interested in attending to RSVP at 563.552.8080.

Iowa Insurance Commissioner Nick Gerhart is hosting two meetings in Dubuque on Oct. 1.

The meeting geared toward employers is from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Northeast Iowa Community College's Town Clock Center for Professional Development in Dubuque, at 680 Main Street.

The meeting geared toward individual health insurance consumers is as 6:30 p.m. in the Eleanor Roosevelt Middle School auditorium at 2001 Radford Road.

Again, the health insurance marketplace website is HERE, with information for individuals and employers alike.

Iowa's federally qualified health centers can offer information and guidance on ACA changes.

People in Dubuque's tri-state area and Iowa's northeast-most counties can contact Crescent Community Health Center HERE or by calling Angela Petsche at 563.552.8080.

People in Cedar Rapids can contact Linn Community Care Health Center HERE or at 319.730.7300.

Waterloo has Peoples Community Health Clinic HERE or at 319.272.4300.

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