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Issue: 1222 Date: 1/23/2014
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Update: Month One Of Health Coverage
Under The Affordable Care Act

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        As of January 1st, the first Americans enrolled in health insurance via the Affordable Care Act began receiving coverage.

        According to Professor Sidney Watson of the Saint Louis University Health Law Policy Center, a little more than 33,000 Missourians have signed up for plans through the federal Marketplace so far, leaving another 467,000 Missourians eligible to enroll. Almost 26,000 Missourians have enrolled in Medicaid.

        "We think most of them are children," Watson said. "Parents were going to the Marketplace and realizing their children were eligible".

        Nationwide, 2.2 million Americans are now covered through the Marketplace.

        "We think it's going very well," Missouri Health Care for All executive director Jennifer Bersdale said of the enrollment period. "We've been working to talk to people who are signing up, finding plans that are better than what they had available to them before, more affordable than they ever had available, both those who get discounts and those who don't."

        Open enrollment lasts through March 31, and no penalty will be incurred as long as people sign up before that date. Before then, word needs to get out about people's options, said Watson and Bersdale.

        "About 50 percent of people that are eligible for reduced cost don't know about it." Watson said. Of the people who have signed up so far, 80 percent are getting help with premiums and cost sharing. The Kaiser Health Foundation Subsidy Calculator can help a family or individual determine whether they are eligible for financial aid prior to signing up for insurance.

        Unless Missouri legislators vote to expand Medicaid, anywhere from 200,000 to 300,000 Missourians will remain too poor to qualify for subsidies on the Marketplace, but too wealthy to qualify for Medicaid.

        "People's lives are on the line. We know people who don't have insurance live sicker, they die younger. And I can't think of anything more important for our legislators to do this spring than pass Medicaid expansion," Bersdale said.

        In the St. Louis region, limited coverage for people who fall in the gap between Medicaid and Marketplace coverage is available through the Gateway to Better Health Demonstration Project.

        Trained navigators, including people who speak other languages, are also available to help people make health care decisions and sign up for coverage on the Marketplace. You can locate a navigator, including non-English language navigators by going to the http://healthcare.gov  website and entering your zip code.

        St. Louis on the Air provides discussion about issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh.

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