Q: I am 56, unemployed and a single non-smoker. I have no real income and no health insurance. How is this new health insurance requirement going to affect me? — Teresa from Temple Terrace
A: You’re in a difficult spot, but you have a few options to explore once the Healthcare Marketplace starts operating on Oct. 1 and offers policies for 2014.
First, if you do find a job or expect to earn more than $11,490 in 2014, you will be eligible to shop on the federal online marketplace, or exchange (www.healthcare.gov). There you can earn subsidies to help cover monthly premiums for various levels of insurance.
It’s important to know that while your premium costs may be next to nothing, there still will be costs associated with things like doctor visits and prescription drugs. (Your costs would be much higher had you been a smoker.)
If your financial situation does not change, you cannot qualify for the exchange. People who make less than $11,490 are below the federal poverty level, and the Affordable Care Act didn’t design the exchange for those individuals. It created a provision allowing states to expand Medicaid insurance for the poor to include adults falling into this category, but as of today, Florida’s legislature has declined to expand its Medicaid program.
Because you are a Hillsborough County resident, there is one other possibility for you to check out. Since 1991, the county has operated the Hillsborough County Health Care Plan, which provides medical and prescription drug assistance to uninsured adults who earn less than the federal poverty level. It is free to qualified adults.
Today, about 13,000 adults are being served by the program, which designates certain doctors and facilities for treatment. To get more information about the Hillsborough plan, call (813) 272-5555.