As consumers, we have all been hearing about the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) for quite some time now. Elements of what is on the horizon may seem confusing to many in metro Detroit and across the country. One thing is certain. People have questions they need answered. On Thursday, December 12, Health Alliance Plan (HAP) is putting on a free health and wellness expo to help get answers and get signed up, if you are so inclined.
For those that qualify, a deadline is looming on December 23 to get coverage beginning in January. That is the date to either get covered or you may face a penalty. Time is running out, so if you are going to sign up, you’ve got to get it all figured out for yourself and your family quickly.
The government website is up, although there have been some much-publicized issues with it. But, there are still millions of people across the country and thousands here in Michigan who still have not taken any steps to secure the required coverage. HAP Vice President of Community Outreach DeAndre Lipscomb says the numbers of uninsured in the state are high.
“More than 515,000 people in the tri-county area are currently uninsured,” he said. “Of that group, only 1,200 have gone through the process of signing up on the HealthCare.Gov website.”
Beginning March 31, 2014, people have to have health insurance or qualify for an exemption from the law to avoid paying a tax penalty. How will the government know if you aren’t covered? When you file your taxes in 2015, you’ll report whether you have coverage or if you qualify for an exemption.
Many are wondering whether they have to sign up at all. What plans are available? What is it going to cost? How to sign up? And so on. While all of the plan’s questions can’t be answered in one day, the informational expo is a start.
“This is a critical time for those that are uninsured,” says Lipscomb. “We don’t want to just be talking heads and not listen. We want people to understand the importance of being covered and that it’s more than just paying a premium to a company. This one-on-one interaction is important.”
According to the Healthcare.Gov website, there are four ways to apply for coverage through Insurance Marketplace; a paper application, online through the website, by phone or with an in-person assister. The expo satisfies at least one of these methods.
In addition to the Q&A and sign up help, attendees can also take advantage of special discounts from Weight Watchers®, free adult flu shots and blood pressure screenings, mini massages, and a healthy cooking demonstration with Chef Paul Penneyand.
Speakers include Dr. Frank McGeorge of Henry Ford Hospital and WCHB morning radio host Mildred Gaddis.
HAP plans to do other expos if the public finds them helpful.
“Anyone who is uninsured, employed and not covered, buying health insurance for the first time or has questions about ‘Obamacare’ is encouraged to attend the event,” added Lipscomb.
While some states are operating differently, here in Michigan the Health Insurance Marketplace will be operated by the federal government and not by the state. To compare and shop for health plans, visit the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.Gov.
HAP also has a site up to help people as they make their coverage decisions. Visit ChooseHAP.org.
HAP’s FREE Healthcare and Wellness Expo is happening Thursday, December 12, 2013. You can choose from two sessions, either 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM or 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Greater Grace Temple, 23500 W. Seven Mile Road, Detroit, MI. To register, call (866) 700-0002, Monday – Saturday 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.