Insurance 'marketplace' expected to launch Oct. 1 - WFLA News Channel 8

Insurance 'marketplace' expected to launch Oct. 1

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HERNANDO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Cindy McNulty spends a lot of time trying to help pregnant women get health care and health coverage. But McNulty, a community liaison for Healthy Start Coalition of Pinellas County, doesn't have health insurance herself.

"I just feel like I'm living on the edge," McNulty said.

Although she gets physicals and traditional mammograms, she says she's avoided things like an expensive colonoscopy and a more advanced mammogram despite a concerning family history.

McNulty, 58, is hoping the new insurance "marketplace" launching in connection with the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 1 will be her answer to finding affordable coverage.

She is among 3.8 million Floridians who are uninsured. About 24.8 percent of residents under age 65 had no insurance in 2011, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

In addition to her salary from the non-profit, McNulty says she's given extra money to cover benefits, but the plan options she found were too expensive for her. Several years ago the estimate she got for coverage was $900 a month with a $1,000 deductible, she said.

Based on an online survey she took through the Kaiser Foundation, she thinks her options for premiums through the "marketplace" will be less than half that amount. Florida isn't running its own "marketplace" or "exchange," so she'll have to wait for the federal one to launch before she gets firm numbers.

BY THE NUMBERS: Check the subsidy calculator provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation

McNulty says she plans to be online and shopping for insurance "probably by 12:05" on Oct. 1.

News Channel 8 learned about McNulty through Melanie Hall, who serves as one of the new "navigators" designated to help people through the process of applying for and choosing an insurance plan.

The navigators program has been under fire in Florida, where Gov. Rick Scott has raised privacy concerns about the personal information they could handle, and where that information might end up. Hall said she's confident people's personal information will be safe.

"The federal government will be protecting this information the same way they're already protecting people's private information," she said.

While individuals signing up for insurance will have to put their social security number into the system, Hall says they won't have to give that information to a "navigator."

Once the info is in, some people will be eligible for discounts. Officially, they are "tax credits," but they can be applied immediately, according to information the government provides on healthcare.gov.

There are some misconceptions about who will qualify, Hall said.

"They tend to think this is a program only for low-income families," Hall said. "They don't realize 400 percent of the federal poverty level for a family of four goes up to $94,000. This is a middle income program."

Depending on income, some people will also be eligible for lower "out of pocket" costs insurance companies offer through the marketplace.

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