Starting this fall, as many as 200,000 uninsured Nebraskans could seek insurance coverage through a new health benefit exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. AARP Nebraska today urged state lawmakers to prepare for challenges helping people enroll in health plans while opposing a bill that would make it harder for people to get the assistance they need.
The first open enrollment period will be held from October 2013 to March 2014. The federal health care law calls for community and consumer-focused nonprofit groups to serve as “navigators” by helping people sort through their insurance enrollment options.
LB 568, sponsored by Sen. Burke Harr, would place strict controls on who can provide such assistance to Nebraskans and limit their access to information needed to make enrollment decisions, said Mark Intermill, advocacy director for AARP in Nebraska.
”AARP believes that the licensing requirements in LB 568 will discourage participation by consumer-focused groups that are so crucial to the success of the exchange. This bill would complicate what is already a daunting task,” he said.
Nebraskans who lack insurance coverage or have coverage they can’t afford will be able to enroll in a health plan through the health benefit exchange. People under age 65 with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of poverty will qualify for refundable tax credits to lower their out-of-pocket premium costs.
In addition, Nebraskans younger than 65 with incomes below 138 percent of poverty could qualify for health benefits through Medicaid if the state chooses to expand the program.
Intermill stressed that the Legislature must establish priorities for navigators in order to reach Nebraskans who need assistance the most.
“The top priority should be assisting Nebraskans who would qualify for tax credits or Medicaid,” Intermill said. “We need a navigator program that is capable of providing useful information to consumers during open enrollment, particularly those who don’t have the financial means to buy insurance or the knowledge base to effectively evaluate insurance options.”
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