Open enrollment starts soon under new health care law - Tucson News Now

Open enrollment starts soon under new health care law

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Arizona is planning to expand Medicaid under President Obama's Affordable Care Act and the administration is trying to help people understand how it will work as opponents of the expansion try to stop it.  The Goldwater Institute Thursday filed a lawsuit on behalf of 36 Republican lawmakers and a pair of citizens.  They say Governor Jan Brewer's plans to expand health care to about 300,000 additional Arizonans includes a tax, which requires a two-thirds vote of the legislature.

This comes as a government official, David Sayen, the regional administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services visited Tucson to explain how the new health care law will affect people.

In Arizona, there are nearly one million people currently without health insurance.  Those people will be able to enroll in plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace, or exchange, beginning October 1st.

"Right now, my health is good," Brett Stager, a Tucsonan without health insurance said.  "But the day is going to come when my health is not so good and that's when this plan is not going to work."

Ten years without regular employment, Stager says he has relied on El Rio for care, which he pays for on a sliding scale.  But, Stager says he would like full coverage.  Open enrollment begins October 1 and runs through March 30.  Users will have about six months to look at the offerings and decide whether to get health insurance through the Marketplace or buy it individually through a company.    

"Consumers in Arizona will have the chance to purchase insurance that is guaranteed issue," Sayen said. "It doesn't matter if you've had an illness in the past or have one now.  It is affordable, and is available to people of all ages."

Sayen says the exchange will allow users to compare what a plan offers side-by-side.  Stager says he is concerned about cost, but cost will not be revealed until the exchange opens in a few weeks.

"Those private health plans are what we're going to be presenting to consumers in a regulated marketplace so that the comparison is easy to make," Sayen said.

People with Medicare or Medicaid coverage will stay with their current plans, Sayen said.  Many who are currently uninsured will be eligible for subsidies, based on income level and family size.

According to a report by Family USA, a national health consumer organization, nearly 570,000 Arizonans will be eligible for premium tax credits that will help pay for coverage.  Over 82,000 of those people are in Pima County.  

Stager says there is a lot to go over.  "They just need to break it down in layman's terms, very simple," Stager said.  "We can review it and go from there."

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