Day 1 of Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace - Tucson News Now

Day 1 of Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Congress didn't derail the health care overhaul when the government shut down, but high demand slowed it down.

Reportedly, more than a million people had logged onto the healthcare.gov website in the first hours of day one of sign-up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

You can signup through March 31, 2014.

The ACA is for uninsured individuals and for people with individual plans who might find a better deal on the Marketplace.

People who have private health insurance coverage, such as through their employer, and people who have Medicare or Medicaid don't have to do anything.

Nothing changes for them.

There is a lot of information to go through for people who want to sign up for health insurance through the ACA .

In Tucson and Pima County some non-profits, such as Arizona Enroll America, are guiding people to where they can find trained individuals, called Navigators, who can guide them through the process of finding and buying a health care plan.

However, the expectation is there will be scammers.

Some will try to charge a fee to help people sign up.

Worse yet, some scammers will try to steal private information.

There are legitimate organizations spreading the word about the health insurance marketplace.

Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild held a news conference Tuesday to bring together several experts.

One them, Pima County Attorney Chief Deputy Amelia Cramer, says the Consumer Federation of America has warned of identity theft and other schemes it anticipates seeing.

Cramer says the government will not call you "out of a blue" to set up an insurance plan.

"If you receive a solicitation from someone you don't know on the phone or from someone coming to your home uninvited, be appropriately suspicious even if they say they are from the Marketplace or claim to be from the government or Medicare. Do not provide an uninvited solicitor with your personal medical or financial information. Do not give an unknown solicitor your Social Security number," Cramer says.

She adds, if you believe you are a victim of fraud or potential fraud, report it immediately to local law enforcement.

She says you also should contact the Health Insurance Marketplace website at                        1-800-318-2596.

When it comes down to finding a health insurance plan on the Marketplace, you'll find several choices from several different insurance companies.

All that information on the government website.

Also at Tuesday's news conference was a representative of one of the insurance companies offering plans through the marketplace.

She had some advice: Start doing your research and take your time.

Karen Leonard of The University of Arizona Health Plans says, "Look at the needs that they have in their particular family or situation and do they have a lot of health care costs? Do they have young children? Are they a single adult. What do they really need?"

Leonard says the government website has all the plan information so you can compare plans.

All the plans have to offer essential services.

She says then it gets down to the total cost of a plan, not just the premium.

"So you'll be able to look at the premium costs before tax credits, after tax credits and then you'll be able to pull up the summary of benefits for each one of the plans and look at the specific coverage and what those co-insurances and deductibles and co-pays an so forth are for every single plan," Leonard says.

Mayor Rothschild mentioned costs too, encouraging smaller employers to take a look at what's available to them.

"If you're an employer under 50 employees, you're not required to be a part of this, but we're suggesting that a look because the other thing that has now happened is that there are tax credits and additional credits available for the small employers that weren't available before," Rothschild says.

Arizona Enroll America Communication Lead Pati Urias says her organization is fanning out all over Tucson and Pima County, helping people find the information they need.

She says her organization can lead people to a Navigator, if they need one.

Urias says her group also can explain how tax credits work to help those who qualify get help paying for the health insurance plan they buy.

Again, the experts say you don't have to rush into anything.

Open enrollment will continue through March 31.

However, if you want your coverage to start on January 1, 2014, you should sign up by December 15, 2013.

Among the Tucson-area groups that will offer assistance:

El Rio Community Health Center locations.

The Pima County Health Department.

St. Elizabeth's Health Center.

Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The Urban League.

United Way.

Click here for information on how to reach them.

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