Not everyone lives a click away from the Internet, the home base for the government’s health insurance marketplace.
That has created a dilemma for a number of Tampa-area residents, some of the estimated 7 million uninsured Americans expected to enroll in the online exchange this fall. They want to know if they qualify to shop in the program, and if so, they want to be able to compare the different insurance plans and prices.
Michelle, a Tampa resident, is a full-time caregiver for her mother and has no computer or Internet access at home. It takes a lot of work to get to a public library’s computer station, and she can’t imagine bothering a neighbor so she can spend hours in front of a computer screen.
A neighbor shared with her a printout of The Tampa Tribune’s Healthcare Q&A, an online resource we’ve also been highlighting the past several weeks. Michelle then called our newsroom to ask how she can learn more about getting health insurance, something the Affordable Care Act will require of nearly all Americans effective Jan. 1.
We answered Michelle’s question – along with many others – on TBO.com/health. Tampa area residents who are unable to find a straight answer are encouraged to submit their questions about how the Affordable Care Act affects them. We will ask the experts for you and try to get some clarity about how all of these changes will affect you and your family.
Visit TBO.com/health to see other queries, including Michelle’s, which we’re sharing here:
Question: I don’t have a computer and I care for my elderly mother. How do I learn about the insurance options since I can’t go online?
– Michelle from Tampa
Answer: The Healthcare Marketplace — or exchange — that will operate in Florida depends on individuals having access to a computer and the Internet. While officials tout the availability of terminals at public libraries and community health centers, it sounds as if that will be difficult for you to manage.
There are a couple of ways you can get the information you need to make a decision about your health insurance for 2014. Currently, you can call the 24-hour Healthcare.gov hotline at (800) 318-2596 or TTY: (855) 889-4325.
Applicants also will be allowed to fill out paper applications and submit them by mail. But it still isn’t clear exactly where in the Tampa area you can find them.
After Oct. 1, there will be local “navigators” to speak with you about the insurance available as part of the Affordable Care Act. Phone numbers for those navigators aren’t available yet, but workers on the hotline might be able to connect you closer to Oct. 1, the first day of the six-month enrollment period.
These individuals are not commercial insurance agents; they are trained to understand the options within the online marketplace, your eligibility for those plans and the potential breaks on your monthly premiums.
Also, details about how much this will cost won’t be available until Oct. 1. But it can’t hurt to make a call and find out which documents you might need to collect so you’re ready when enrollment starts.
Stay tuned to TBO.com/health and we will update that information as soon as we can.