Free help signing up for Health Insurance Marketplace - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Free help signing up for Health Insurance Marketplace

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is asking the inspector general to review development of www.healthcare.gov. It has been plagued with problems for those trying to sign up for mandated health insurance that is now the law of the land.

With an end of year deadline approaching, Women & Children's Hospital in Lake Charles is helping people sign up for coverage.

Ten weeks have passed since the launch of the Affordable Care Act, yet millions of Americans still have not signed up. That is why Annette Garber with Women & Children's says they are now staffing four application counselors to navigate through the process with those ready to get coverage by January 1st.

"If someone were to enroll by December 23rd, they would be able to have insurance coverage by January 1st," said Garber, "so that really is exciting for people who are uninsured."

If you are not insured by March 31st, 2014, you will pay an annual penalty until you enroll. "It is $95 per adult or $47.50 per child," said Garber.

But that penalty can be avoided if you enroll now. Garber says counselors can explain the different levels of coverage, plus the basics each provides. "Every plan is required to provide comprehensive wellness services, prescription medications, general children's visits," she said.

Once you schedule an appointment with an application counselor, you will be asked to bring a few basic documents, such as an ID, proof of income and social security card.

The in person application process takes about 30 minutes and the counselor can also let you know if you qualify for any other government health programs. "They will be able to find out if they qualify for Medicaid, also the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), so there's a lot of people that don't know that they may qualify," she said.

If you qualify for Medicaid, CHIP or Medicare, you are covered. There is no need to do anything else, even if you have a pre-existing condition. "They cannot drop you if you develop cancer or if you have cancer and you apply they cannot deny you," said Garber.

Appointments are available with application counselors Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Call 337-475-4004 to schedule your appointment.

There are also navigators through the Southwest Louisiana Health Education Center helping with enrollment before the December 23 deadline. Go to www.lahealthcarenav.com for more information.

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