Under the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare," every U.S. citizen should be enrolled in a healthcare plan by March 31, 2014.
By now, we've all heard the caveat: Sign up now, or else you'll be penalized.
In Brooklyn, the pitch has worked for hundreds of thousands of newly enrolled residents. But for others, the message has not yet hit home:
I'm broke, I can't afford another bill. Or What's the worst that can happen if I don't enroll? Or Obama can force a new bill on us, yet cannot enforce jobs to pay for it? Or I'm young and healthy; I don't really need healthcare.
The truth is, under the new system, healthcare is a lot cheaper for the individual payer than it was before. Additionally, by law, the standards, as far as the quality of healthcare service provided, also have been raised.
"People should begin to think about health insurance not as something that's nice to have, but something they need to have," said Sana Hashmi, director of Health Care Reform at Emblem Health. "It's a lot more affordable, and there's a lot more flexibility now than before."
In Central Brooklyn, there are a number of clinics, health centers and mobile vans set up and ready to accept walk-ins. You just need to know which ones are most convenient and accessible.
Or if you prefer to look over the materials on your own, you can enroll online through the Health Exchange website here.
Still, if online registration seems daunting, you can call this number at the New York State of Health, 855-355-5777, and a live person will walk you through the process. Or to find a navigator in your area, email Community Health Advocates at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-614-5400.
Or, in some cases, like with Emblem, the healthcare provider can send a person directly to your home. To set up an appointment, call 1-800-542-2412.
"You give us a call, and we can set up home appointments," said Johnny Cobos, manager of Market Segments at Emblem. "We're doing a lot of community outreach. It's as grassroots as grassroots can get."
And you don't have to write a check on the spot. You sit down with a counselor who will let you choose which option makes sense for your budget, and then there is a 20-day window before payment commences.
Additionally, through the new system of enrollment, NYSH works directly with the IRS, making the registration process on the front-end quick and turn-key. The entire process takes between 45 minutes to an hour.
And here is what you should have available:
- A state-issued I.D. card or driver's license
- A document that proves your immigration status, such as a social security card, birth certificate, Green Card or residency card.
Last Sunday, Emblem parked its enrollment vehicle—a big purple van—outside of a church on Tompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
"There was one young woman who went to church with no health insurance but who left church with insurance," said Cobos. "She was so happy, because she didn't think she could afford it."
"And we see this often. We meet the naysayers that think, I don't know if I want to pay that $100-and-something a month after tax credits. But hey, God forbid something happens, it would cost you a whole lot more."
The monthly cost can average anywhere from between $50 -$200, depending upon your family size and your income. And there are hardship exemptions.
"People are paying $50 - $60 dollars for a pretty good plan a month," said Hashmi. "Even if [you] were previously not eligible for Medicaid, [you] might be eligible for it now, because Medicaid doesn't have a premium associated with it."
"There are subsidies that are available. Or there might be a month where you really can't afford the premium, you can always call the company to discuss that."
There are "Advantage Care Physicians" available at centers throughout the city. In The Brooklyn Reader coverage area, there's the Bedford Center on Nostrand and Dekalb in Bedford-Stuyvesant; the Empire Center on Nostrand and Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights; and downtown Brooklyn, there's a center on Atlantic and Nevins.
Also there will be enrollment vehicles parked in Bed-Stuy on Thursdays on Fulton Street between Arlington and Nostrand; in Flatbush on Nostrand and Flatbush on Wednesdays; and in Crown Heights on Mondays in front of Medgar Evers College.
"Until you make it a priority to say healthcare is a need, it's going to be very difficult for you to know what you can take advantage of," said Hashmi. "So at least set up your profile and see what is in there for you. It's like setting up a Facebook account; you can use it as much as you want to use it.
"Knowing that you have insurance and knowing you and your family can go to the doctor when you need is important
"The people who have it will tell you: There's nothing like having that safety net. There's nothing like having that peace of mind."