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Kaptur encourages insurance sign ups when enrollment opens

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    U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur from left, talks with Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, State Rep. Michael Sheehy, and Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski following a news conference at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department Monday, October 30.

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    U.S Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), with Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, left, State Rep. Michael Sheehy, and Julie Grasson, Assistant Direct, CareNet, speaks during a news conference at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department Monday, October 30.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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    U.S Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), with Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken, left, and State Rep. Michael Sheehy, speaks during a news conference at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department Monday, October 30.

    The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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Elected officials representing northwest Ohio on Monday encouraged residents to sign up for health care when the marketplace exchange opens on Wednesday, despite what they say are attempts to thwart the Affordable Care Act by the Trump Administration. 

“If you do not have health insurance, you can use this period to inform yourself about which plans are available to you and how to sign up,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) at a news conference at the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

She was joined by State Rep. Mike Sheehy (D., Oregon) and Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken. 

Enrollment on the marketplace exchange begins Wednesday and runs through Dec. 15. Miss Kaptur specifically called on single men and women, older adults who do not yet qualify for Medicare, and low-income residents who may be eligible for Medicaid, to explore their options and enroll in a plan. 

“One of the reasons we are doing this [outreach] is we have a president of the United States who has cut in half the enrollment period for people to sign up for their health insurance for 2018,” she said, referring to the shorter open enrollment period this year, down to 45 days rather than three months in previous years.

Ohioans shopping on the marketplace will likely see several changes over previous years, including fewer insurers offering plans. In northwest Ohio, Erie, Paulding, Ottawa, Williams, and Wyandot counties are among those where only one insurer will sell marketplace plans for 2018. 

The Ohio Department of Insurance said in September that the average cost for an individual marketplace plan would increase 34 percent over the average cost in 2017.

Of that increase about 11 percent is attributable to the assumption that insurers will not receive cost sharing reduction payments in 2018, the department said. Those are federal payments made to insurance companies to keep out-of-pocket costs down for low and middle-income Americans, which President Donald Trump has said he we cancel.

He has called the payments “bailouts” for insurance companies and continually called to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.

Customers who are eligible for income-based tax credits will largely be shielded from premium increases as tax credit amounts are tied to premiums, but those who pay full price would not be.

Mr. Gerken said attempts by Republicans and President Trump to undo the Affordable Care Act have “starved” the exchanges but not killed them.

“It’s in your best interest and the country’s best interest to enroll,” he said. “Don’t believe the man behind the curtain.”

Customers will also have less help when choosing plans for their families. 

In late September, the Ohio Association of Foodbanks announced that it could not provide navigator services in the state after steep federal funding cuts. The association, which in previous years has distributed navigator program funding to nine non-profits around the state, had its funding cut by 71 percent. 

That includes Toledo/Lucas County CareNet, which had provided navigator services to 21 counties in northwest Ohio.

But, organizations such as the health department, Neighborhood Health Association, and CareNet employ certified application counselors who provide similar resources as navigators, though with a smaller regional reach. 

To compare available plans and estimate associated costs, visit www.healthcare.gov or calll 1-800-318-2596. To find assistance options, click on “Find Local Help” on the site’s homepage.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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