Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: You have questions, we have answers for health insurance

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Timeline

December 23rd – Must purchase insurance to have coverage starting January 1

Jan. 1: Connect for Health Colorado coverage begins

Jan. 10: Payment due in order to have coverage for January 1

Jan. 15: Deadline to apply for insurance starting February 1

Feb. 15: Deadline to apply for insurance starting March 1

March 15: Deadline to apply for insurance starting April 1

March 31: End of open enrollment for 2014 insurance

Oct. 15: Open Enrollment begins for 2015 Health Insurance

Dec. 7: End of Open Enrollment for 2015

Jan. 1, 2015: Connect for Health Colorado Insurance Coverage Begins

Enrollment assistance

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

940 Central Park Drive, Suite 101

970-871-7638 or assistroutt@nwcovna.org

Routt County Department of Human Services

135 Sixth St.

Scheduled appointments available 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Thursday

970-870-5271

Yampa Valley Medical Center

1024 Central Park Drive, Steamboat Springs

Open enrollment lab sessions

9 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17 at the Yampa Valley Medical Center Conference Room 1

5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday Dec. 19 at the Yampa Valley Medical Center Conference Room 1

Community drop-in Q-and-A sessions

11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 20 at Bud Werner Memorial Library

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

This monthly column about health issues publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

It is crunch time for community members looking for insurance coverage through Connect for Health Colorado beginning Jan. 1. Many of us are finding out that navigating the requirements and application process for financial assistance can take some time. Our community is working hard to simplify this process, thanks to the relationships formed through the Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership and participating health insurance brokers. NCCHP is a behind-the-scenes partnership between various health agencies in Northwest Colorado, which include enrollment assistance sites in Routt County at Yampa Valley Medical Center, the Visiting Nurse Assistance and Routt County Department of Human Services. These agencies provide valuable resources and expertise for anyone who has questions, free of cost.

If you need help applying, attend one of the open enrollment sessions at Yampa Valley Medical Center of the open Q-and-A sessions at various community centers. While it can be difficult to apply, those that complete the application can receive hundreds of dollars per month in federal tax credits to help pay the cost of their premiums. We will continue to help you enroll and manage your account in Connect for Health Colorado for ongoing support throughout the new year. To answer some of your questions, we have included some FAQs.

Q. Who can use Connect for Health Colorado?

A. Connect for Health Colorado offers private health insurance to individuals and families in Colorado, employers with as many as 50 employees, and Coloradans who don’t have access to affordable coverage through their employer.

Q. Why do I have to apply for Medicaid in order to receive financial assistance through Connect for Health Colorado?

A. Connect for Health Colorado cannot provide premium tax credits to Coloradans who are eligible for Medicaid. Customers who are interested in applying for the premium tax credit to use up-front to reduce their monthly cost of private health insurance need to first find out if they are eligible for Medicaid under the expansion for 2014.

Q. Why do insurance companies charge more for rural areas of Colorado than their prices on the Front Range?

A. There are 11 insurance rating areas in Colorado, which are regulated by the Colorado Division of Insurance. In certain areas, such as the mountain resort towns, prices have been higher than in others. Fortunately, the new kind of tax credit available through Connect for Health Colorado is calculated based on your income and prices in your community compared to the portion of your income you are expected to contribute to your insurance. So that means the tax credit will be higher in areas with higher insurance prices.

Q. How much financial assistance will I qualify for and how will I get the money?

A. The amount of financial assistance you will qualify for depends on your income, family size, age for 2014 and the portion of your income you are expected to contribute to your insurance. If you do qualify for financial assistance, you can:

1. Use the tax credit up front to reduce the cost of your premium

2. Use a portion of the tax credit to pay the monthly cost of the premium and get the rest as a tax refund in 2015

3. Buy private health insurance through Connect for Health Colorado without applying for financial assistance and claim the tax credit, if eligible, when you file taxes in 2015.

Q. If I’m a seasonal or self-employed worker whose income changes from year to year, how will my tax credit be calculated?

A. You will be given financial assistance based on your estimate for the following year, and other factors. If you have no idea what your 2014 income will be, use a higher estimate. This way you will receive less assistance each month and the remaining credit will be awarded to you at the end of the year through your tax return.

Q. What if I’m already getting insurance through my employer?

A. If your employer already offers you insurance, it’s likely that nothing will change for you and you can continue to use that insurance. If the insurance you are offered is considered unaffordable – costing more than 9.5 percent of your household income – you could be eligible for a tax credit through Connect for Health Colorado.

Q. What are the advantages to insuring my small business through Connect for Health Colorado?

Businesses with less than 25 full-time employees may qualify for tax benefits for as much as 50 percent the business’ cost of the premiums.

• Employees join the same risk pool as other small businesses in Colorado, decreasing the cost of your premiums.

• Employees can use pre-tax dollars to pay premiums and employers can offer payroll

For more frequently asked questions go to https://connectforhealthco.custhelp.com/.

Erin Gleason is the Community & Small Business Health Insurance Coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

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