Help available for health care signups

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WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) — Millions of Americans continue to shop for private health insurance, mostly online or by calling the toll-free help line.

Access Health Mahoning Valley is a relatively new non-profit where uninsured adults ages 19 to 64 who meet income requirements can get quality health care. It has offices in the Warren and Youngstown City Health Departments and soon will be staffed with certified application counselors to help walk folks through the process.

There also are counselors on hand at several area clinics, but a couple days in and people aren’t exactly lining up out the doors.

“It’s sort of likened to Black Friday. When people go shopping, wverybody wants to be the first in line at the door. If you sign up in November or early December, it’s going to be the same as Oct. 1 or 2,” said Bill Adams, director of Access Health Mahoning Valley.

Adams estimates there are about 42,000 uninsured adults in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, and close to 50 million nationwide. But the federally mandated Affordable Care Act isn’t a catch-all and he said uninsured people who aren’t exempt will slip through the cracks.

“There will still be a good-sized number of people that will need a service like ours, so in this area it may be close to 20,000 people, even after the Affordable Care Act,” Adams said.

Penalties don’t start until after the open enrollment period closes March 31, 2014 and are applied when filing your income tax return.

“So this isn’t something that needs to be done in a day. It is something that needs to be well thought out, as any insurance process, with any family. And people should be careful, there will be a lot of insurers out there in the market pushing products,” said Dr. Robert Padgett of One Health Ohio.

In 2014, a single adult without insurance for more than three months will face a $95 penalty, or 1 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater. Penalties for individuals, children and families increase dramatically over the next three years to $695 per adult and more than $2,000 per family in 2016.

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