Oklahoma Experts Answer Questions About Affordable Healthcare Act Options

Monday, September 30th 2013, 11:14 pm

About 100 people showed up to Tulsa Tech Monday to learn more about the Affordable Healthcare Act and how it will work.

On Tuesday at midnight the Marketplace Exchange opens - that's basically a virtual shopping mall where everyone can go online and shop and compare prices for their specific health insurance needs.

There was a room full of people at Tulsa Tech - all looking for the same thing, and a panel of experts ready to educate. The North Tulsa Economic Development Initiative organized the conference that allowed the audience to ask individualized questions.

Cynthia Ward pays out of pocket for her health insurance and wants to know more about shopping around.

"I want to know what's in the marketplace, and I want to know if it's going to offer a better deal than what I have and more individual coverage for my own unique needs," said Tulsan Cynthia Ward.

Then there's the uninsured. Carmen Pettie has been living without health insurance since 2009.

"I don't have healthcare and that's not good," Pettie said. "Is it embarrassing to say you don't have healthcare."

Now Pettie is waiting for the clock to strike midnight - so she start her online shopping for health insurance she can afford.

9/29/2013 Related Story: US Health Insurance Exchange To Open In Oklahoma

Laura Dempsey-Polan with Morton Comprehensive Health Services says the question she's most asked is if it's mandatory to enroll - those in audience tonight wanted to know the same.

There is a penalty fee for anyone who chooses to go uninsured. In 2014 - it will be one percent of your yearly income or $95 per person for the year, whichever is higher. It's 47.50 per each uninsured child.

That may not seem like much, but the fee increases every year. In 2016 will be the higher number of 2.5 percent of your yearly income or $695 per person.

Even with the new marketplace exchanges, Polan say there will still be some in the state who won't be able to pay and will simply be out of luck.

"Unfortunately because we did not accept, in Oklahoma, the Medicaid expansion there will be a few folks who fall through the cracks," said Laura Dempsey-Polan of Morton Comprehensive Health Services.

There are a number of exemptions, like financial hardships. If that's the case, the fee would be determined at tax time.

The 2014 Enrollment lasts through March, but experts said it may be a good idea to wait a few weeks before getting really serious about signing up, because there will likely be some kinks to work out on the beginning.

There will be also be navigators who can help you, but one thing to keep in mind, no one from the government will contact you about signing up. So, any call, email or letter regarding signing up for an exchange is a scam.