Obamacare events across Georgia helping consumers sign up

Georgians who want to sign up for Obamacare health plans can find one-on-one help as insurance “navigators” host events across Georgia at libraries, churches, nonprofit offices and even a soul food restaurant.

The enrollment period for Obamacare health plans opened last week and consumers have until Dec. 15 to sign up for an Affordable Care Act plan.

The sign-up period opened at a time when political battles have left many consumers confused about the status of the health care law. And that’s on top of all the typical confusion that comes with any insurance sign-up when consumers try to figure out networks, deductibles and co-payments.

“We have not seen this level of confusion since the first year,” said Marc Jenkins, an outreach coordinator and navigator for the nonprofit organization Insure Georgia, which guides Georgians through the Obamacare sign-up process.

Dozens of navigators such as Jenkins will be opening their laptops and sitting down with Georgia consumers to help them find coverage through Obamacare. That free help will include letting consumers know how much they can get through a tax credit that will make their coverage more affordable.

Navigators look at each consumer’s income and work through the costs of coverage and how the deductibles, co-payments and subsidies will work. Different plans, at different prices, are available from the various companies selling through the Obamacare marketplace.

“There are an array of plans that fit budgets and health needs,” Jenkins said. “We say there’s something for everybody in terms of health insurance.”

To find a sign-up event near you, click here. Georgia consumers are not limited to sign-up events in their own county. Navigators working at the events can help consumers no matter where they live.

The navigators working at the sign-up events must be licensed by the Georgia Department of Insurance.

“My office requires individuals applying to become a Navigator or Certified Application Counselor to pass a test and undergo a criminal background check before getting licensed,” Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens said in a news release. “These requirements help protect consumers from the unqualified or dishonest people who would otherwise be operating in our state.”

The department has licensed 127 Navigators and Certified Application Counselors, the Department of Insurance said on Friday. Hudgens, a Republican who has strongly criticized the Affordable Care Act, said consumers can also work with local insurance agents to gain coverage through the insurance exchange.

To verify a navigator’s license, consumers can check the listing of licensees on the department’s website.

To find insurance agents and a comprehensive list of other organizations who can assist consumers with sign-ups, go to this page on the Obamacare website.

For consumers who may find it hard to make it to a sign-up event, Insure Georgia also offers “virtual” help over the phone by calling the help line at 866-988-8246.

Or, consumers can simply sign up on their own by going to the Obamacare website: healthcare.gov.

Jenkins said many consumers find in-person help at events the easiest way to work through the complexities of picking a plan. He said most of the consumers that the navigators help end up getting a tax credit to help pay for their coverage, although some cannot qualify if their incomes are too high.

Jenkins said many of the people who seek out coverage through Obamacare are self-employed, working part-time jobs or working as contractors. “There’s barbers, there’s attorneys, there’s landscapers, there’s dentists,” he said. “There’s a ton of different people we see throughout the course of the year.”

FAQs on Obamacare: the AJC has the answers on how the health plans work.

Read our full story on Obamacare enrollment for 2018.

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