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After years of working abroad and navigating her own health insurance as she moved from country to country, when award-winning photojournalist Radhika Chalasani returned to the U.S., she knew her options were more limited. But, what she also found was that, like other self-employed people, obtaining good health insurance was also a confusing, frustrating and expensive process. That, combined with a photo assignment she did for Time.com on the uninsured, spurred her to take action and start educating her fellow freelancers on the subject.
Radhika, now the lead producer Open Show NY and board member for the NY Chapter of ASMP, has organized a free seminar to help photographers get the facts on the Affordable Care Act. She reached out to speaker and health insurance navigator Renata Marinaro of The Actor’s Fund who has spent years helping creatives find their own way to getting the best coverage for them. The event takes place Tuesday, February 25th from 6:30-8:30 at the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Anyone interested can RSVP here.
For those who don’t know too much about it, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also referred to as Obamacare) was signed into law in March 2010. Its aim is to reform the healthcare industry with the goals of increasing the quality and affordability of health insurance, lowering the uninsured rate and reducing the costs of healthcare overall. The law includes many provisions that address who can be covered under private insurance, the range of coverage that is mandated, overall healthcare costs as well as changes to the Medicare and Medicaid system.
The Act also stipulates that all individuals not covered by an employer sponsored health plan, Medicaid, Medicare or other public insurance programs secure an approved private insurance policy or pay a penalty. And, it calls for health exchanges to be set up in each state and serve as an online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to compare plans and buy insurance. These exchanges opened on October 1st of last year.
Purchasing insurance through the exchange is not mandatory, however. You may go direct to an insurance carrier or take advantage of other group buying programs such as the Freelancers Union here in New York City. Just be sure to educate yourself on the different coverage options and costs!
Here, Renata answers some basic questions about the marketplace.
Why should I check out the marketplace/exchange?
Marketplace plans offer very comprehensive benefits. They cover things like doctor’s visits, hospitalizations, prescriptions, pregnancy, mental health care — they even reimburse you for going to the gym! Everybody likes that! And plans can’t turn you away or charge you more because of your medical history. All pre-existing conditions are covered!
What are the deadlines?
Everyone has to be enrolled in coverage by March 31. If you don’t, you’ll pay a penalty of 1% of your income. If you want coverage to start by April 1, you have to sign up by March 15.
Who’s eligible to sign up for insurance on the marketplace/exchange?
People who don’t get insurance through their employer or programs such as Medicare. Also, people you are on COBRA and find it’s too expensive can apply.
What if I can’t afford it?
If you’re single and make less than roughly $46,000 (or $94,000 for a family of up to four) a year, you can get a subsidy. The less you make, the bigger your subsidy will be. Your eligibility is based on what’s called “modified adjusted gross income” which you calculate as part of your tax forms every year.
What should I do if I need help signing up?
Coming to the talk I’m giving February 25th is a great start! You can RSVP here. We also have Navigators at The Actors Fund who can help artists and entertainers enroll. And, you can also call the marketplace assistance number for New York State at 855-355-5777.
For questions about the program in other states, you can call 1-800-318-2596 or visit www.healthcare.gov.
Renata Marinaro is Eastern Region director of Health Services for The Actors Fund. She counsels professionals and small businesses in the entertainment industry nationwide on health care coverage options. She created a series of guides on health care in 18 creative communities, as well as an online tutorial and guide on the Affordable Care Act, “Every Artist Insured: Understanding Health Care Reform”. Renata is also a licensed social worker in health care in the New York metro area.