“Residents get help navigating healthcare choices”

Residents get help navigating healthcare choices
by Andrew Cauthen

Marilyn Johnson of Clarkston went to the library to do some work on a computer and left with health insurance. While at the Clarkston Library, Johnson talked to a certified healthcare navigator with Georgia Watch, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization that is a subcontractor providing assistance with obtaining affordable healthcare to residents in DeKalb, Clayton and Cobb counties. “I was curious about the healthcare information because I had been informed by someone from another company and they had a very large premium,” Johnson said. “I’m a naturopathic doctor. I’m a health educator, so I’m very interested in not having to participate in high insurance premiums.”Johnson said the healthcare navigators were “very kind and took their time and with my low income, they walked me through and I found out I could get an insurance premium that was very inexpensive.“I was very happy about that,” Johnson said. “Plus I was able to get dental insurance as well. They took the time and they were con-cerned to be able to help me to achieve that goal.”Healthcare navigators are tasked with helping those interested in obtain-ing healthcare through the Federal Healthcare Market, which was initiated by President Barack Obama

The Affordable Care Act requires most people to maintain health insurance. Johnson said she has not had health insurance in a couple of years because of the “exorbitant” expense.“I’m an adjunct faculty member at the Art Institute and they don’t supply [health insurance],” Johnson said. “They stopped supplying that a few years back because they felt you would go through the healthcare marketplace.“Had I had a preexisting condition or some other problem, I would have really been up the creek because in addition to [my employer] not providing any kind of option for healthcare, they also cut our hours,” she said. “So healthcare gets on the back burner.”Before talking with a healthcare navigator at the library, Johnson said she had not tried to get healthcare through the Affordable Care Act.“I just felt I just had to live without it,” Johnson said. “I’m a naturalist, so whenever I have a problem, I know what to do about it, but it’s just nice to have it in case there’s a major emergency.”

Pranay Rana, a licensed healthcare navigator with Georgia Watch, said navigators “screen [applicants] based on their family size and their income and their age.” “If they fulfill the age and income criteria, they may be eligible for afford-able care where they get subsidies.” The subsidies come in the form of a premium tax credit and a cost-sharing reduction,” Rana said. For those whose household incomes are too low, Rana said, “they still can complete the application and at the end they’ll get an eligibility notice saying that they do not qualify for subsidies based on their income but they are exempt from penalties.” These applicants will receive a penalty exemption code which they can use when they file taxes. Johnson had a message for others without medical insurance. “At least fill out the application, because it really opens your eyes to what’s available. People should really check it out,” Johnson said.Georgia Watch representatives are scheduled to be at Clarkston Library each Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Feb. 15

SOURCE: The Champion Free Press