Health-care marketplace sign-up effort

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - As the nation prepares to welcome a new president, locals are learning about the future of the Affordable Care Act, which is often called, Obamacare. In fact, a sign-up event for it is being held today at Meridian City Hall.

"The rates have gone up, but so have the subsidies," says Becky Martin. She's a representative for the company, ambetter from magnolia health. It's the sole statewide provider for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

"These folks who qualify for subsidies are going to see that it evens out, and they're not really paying that much more," says Martin.

"I felt like I was going to sink because I couldn't understand what it would cost me," says Gloria Yarbrough of Meridian. She turned out Monday morning to get answers, and to enroll for a plan during a sign-up event for the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. The effort was sponsored by Greater Meridian Health Clinic.

"I can assure the citizens of this area that if you sign up this year you will have coverage for 2017," says GMHC CEO Wilbert Jones.

As President Elect Donald Trump says he will modify the the Affordable Healthcare Act, Jones says this should not alarm participants in the marketplace too much because since it was established, the program has been modified each year.

"Hopefully, the modifications will continue to improve the program," says Jones.

Marie Morris is with the Mississippi Primary Healthcare Association. It's an agency that provides technical assistance to 21 community health centers in Mississippi; Greater Meridian is one of those.

"We want to make sure that consumers are mindful that the law is still the law," says Morris. "You need to have health insurance coverage, and you will endure a penalty unless you have an exemption for not having that coverage."

Morris says according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 45% of the people who faced this penalty last year were people between 18 and 35-years-old.

"That penalty can be up to 2.5% of your income this year. So, that can be quite significant," says Morris.

People who want their insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace to start by January 1st, must sign up for a plan by December 15th.

According to the federal Health and Human Services division, compared to last year at this time enrollment for the ACA Marketplace is up by about 50%. In all, about 104,000 Mississippians and almost 172,000 Alabamians are insured through the marketplace.