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Affordable health care assistance on Ocracoke

Affordable Health care photo

Photo by Stacey Sutton

January 10, 2015

By Stacey L. Sutton

Ocracoke islanders received help navigating the Affordable Healthcare Act during a presentation Jan. 9 in the Ocracoke Community Library, and two more sessions are scheduled.

Lisa DiFilippo, a certified marketplace navigator, was available to help people with questions about the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called ObamaCare) and/or the enrollment process.

DiFilippo is scheduled to again be at the library from 3 to 7 p.m. Jan. 23 and Feb. 6.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed in June of 2010 and requires every U.S. citizen to have health insurance. The consequence of not having insurance is a penalty added to their taxes. This penalty money covers a minimum healthcare coverage. For coverage starting this year, the open enrollment period ends Feb. 15 

Citizens can still shop and compare packages from health insurance companies. However, now they can also go through state Health Insurance Marketplaces located at the website www.healthcare.gov where residents can use a price calculator to see if they qualify for cost assistance subsidies, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or compare the various health plans available in their area.

DiFilippo was pleased to have seen seven people Friday.   

“I help people navigate the (www.healthcare.gov) website and assist them in choosing the best plan for their personal situation,” she said.  “Normally, it takes about an hour to complete a whole application, but most of the people I saw today just had questions pertaining to their specific situations and didn’t need to go through the whole application process.”

DiFilippo works for Access East, Inc., a not-for-profit based out of Greenville that was established by a group of community health organizations whose mission is to improve access to health care for those in eastern North Carolina.

Unfortunately, she said, figuring out what button to click and what information goes in what box when signing up for coverage isn’t always intuitive, which is where DiFilippo’s help can be invaluable.

The only thing people really need to have with them when they visit DiFilippo is an email address.  If clients do not have email, DiFilippo will help set one up.  If clients want to enroll in a plan when they see her, they will also need the social security numbers of everyone they are claiming on their taxes (even if the client isn’t including them in their coverage), and a projected income for 2015.

“Clients aren’t required to provide documentation during the office visit, but there may be a requirement to submit documentation later as their package is being processed,” DiFilippo said.

While a normal application takes about an hour, DiFilippo said the process can take much longer if the website or internet is having issues, or, worse, if clients can’t remember their passwords.

If islanders can’t make the dates when DiFilippo will be here next, they can call her at (252) 216-6623 to work out different arrangements. She can also stay on the island for two days if enough people contact her.

Information about the site visits will be posted at the library, and it is recommended that people call or go on the website www.ncgetcovered.org to make appointments. For more information about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, go to www.obamacarefacts.com.

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