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Crunch time for health care sign-up as Monday deadline looms

Only a week left to sign up; lots of opportunities available

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 1:15 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 9:00 a.m. CST

It’s going to be a very busy week for Rebecca Engelbarts.

She is the Lee County Health Department’s sole part-timer, hired to help residents either choose a federally approved health plan or sign up for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

It’s not going to be any quieter for the five Whiteside County Health Department workers charged with doing the same.

Both departments are open for extended hours and having off-site sign-ups this week and weekend for residents who need to choose health care coverage ahead of Monday’s deadline.

Sign-up in Illinois ends at 10:59 p.m. Monday. Coverage will begin May 1 for those who enroll this week.

For this year, those who fail to enroll will pay a penalty of $95 per adult, half that per child, or 1 percent of your gross income, whichever is greater.

The Lee County Health Department has helped about 300 people enroll since October; Whiteside County has about 1,100 under its belt.

Neither department is keeping track of enrollees by age, but “we’ve had a healthy mix of both” young and older applicants, Engelbarts said. Young adults need to participate to make the program a success, the government has said.

It takes about 15 minutes to sign up for Medicaid, the rules for which have loosened considerably to make it available to more people. For instance, an applicant now needs to rely only on his or her income, not household income, to be eligible.

It takes 30 to 45 minutes to choose and enroll in a Health Insurance Marketplace plan – those private insurance plans approved by the federal government, and for which subsidies are available for those who qualify.

Make sure to bring an ID and know how much money you make, even if it’s just your hourly wage, Whiteside County certified application counselor Melissa Spangler advises. Proof of income won’t be needed until later.

Help in person

In Lee County

Appointments still are available, and are preferred, at the Lee County Health Department, 309 S. Galena Ave. After-hours appointments can be made if necessary through Monday.

Applicants also will be helped from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Dixon Public Library, 221 S. Hennepin Ave., and from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, from 2 to 8 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday at KSB Hospital, 403 E. First St. in Dixon. (Enter in the ER, sign-up is in the private dining room to the left.)

A rep also will be available from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the annual Child Fair at Sauk Valley Community College.

Call 815-284-3371 for an appointment or more information.

In Whiteside County

Walk-ins are welcome, and appointments still are available at the Whiteside County Health Department Community Health Clinic, 1300 W. Second St. in Rock Falls. After-hours appointments can be made if necessary, through Monday.

A representative will be on hand from 5 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday at Sterling Public Library, 102 W. Third St., and two reps will be available from 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the annual Child Fair at Sauk Valley Community College.

Call 815-626-2230 for an appointment or more information.

Help online, by phone

Help online

Multiple websites and agencies are available to help you choose and enroll in a health plan, check Medicare eligibility and sign up, and find agencies and events where you can get person-to-person assistance.

Applicants who plan to sign up through a local health department or other agency are advised to first research their options online if possible.

• Get Covered Illinois, getcoveredillinois.gov

Enroll online or over the phone from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 866-311-1119

• The federal healthcare.gov. Applicants also can call 800-318-2596 to start or finish an application, compare plans, enroll, or ask a question. It's available 24/7, in 150 languages.

cuidadodesalud.gov is the federal site for Spanish speakers.

• University of Illinois Extension's informational website, The Affordable Care Act in Illinois, web.extension.illinois.edu/aca/

It is designed to help people make educated decisions on which health care option best suits them. It includes a list of additional Internet resources for those who want more information, and a blog that addresses specific topics as the deadline for enrollment approaches. You do not enroll at this site.

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