Insurance marketplace opens, locals have questions - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Insurance marketplace opens, locals have questions

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

A large portion of the federal government is shut down this evening with no compromise in sight. House Republicans and Senate Democrats are standing their ground in the fight over spending, which has turned into a battle over "Obamacare."

The Affordable Care Act went into affect Tuesday requiring every American citizen to have health insurance in 2014 or be subject to a fine.

Dozens of local citizens gathered at Southside Community Health Center Tuesday for help picking out which healthcare exchange program is most suitable for them.

Several local people have undergone extensive government training on the law. They're called Affordable Care Act Navigators and Certified Application Counselors. Tuesday the insurance marketplace opened and they're helping people in our area understand what to do now.

"It's hard to get to doctor appointments when you don't have insurance," Deloris Fitch said.

Deloris Fitch is one of around 45,000 uninsured people living in Hamilton County. She lost her health insurance with her job a couple years ago, and she's still unemployed.  

"I have high blood pressure, I'm diabetic and those are two of the medications that I cannot be without. I have to have them at all times," Fitch said.

She's had to scale back on some other medications.

"And some of them I have to let go because I can't afford to get them," Fitch said.

She and dozens of others got to ask questions on how and if they're required to purchase one of the insurance plans revealed Tuesday under the Affordable Care Act.

"I'm just happy they're giving us an opportunity to come out here and get it first hand," Edward Greene said.

Edward Greene learned his Medicaid coverage is all he needs and won't have to buy a plan.

Kathleen McCarthy' is in a different boat. She gets health insurance at work but just found out the price is going way up next month. So, now she's shopping for a better plan.

"You know if I do have a catastrophe, that it's not going to bankrupt me," Kathleen McCarthy said.

Others, don't have a choice because they're already uninsured and will face fines if they don't purchase a plan by march.

"Well I'm fixing to get some," uninsured Hamilton County resident Clifford Norman said.

Federal regulations do not allow the government-trained navigators to point someone to any specific plan or enroll for them.

"Once people come to navigators and CAC's and we're able to answer the questions, they'll be able to figure out and then ideally enroll themselves," Affordable Care Act Navigator Katherlyn Geter said.

Many we spoke to say as confusing as it is, they're hopeful to finally get peace of mind by having health insurance.

"I'm excited if there's something in the program for me and it's something I can afford to receive, I would love it," Fitch said.

Coverage doesn't start until the new year, and you have until March to sign up.

You can shop for plans by calling the government hotline 1(800)318-2596 or go to www.healthcare.gov.

Local officials urge everyone to take time to consider your options. They have several locations where you can get help in person:

- Southside Community Health Center, 100 E. 37th St.

- Dodson Avenue Community Health Center, 1200 Dodson Ave.

- Metropolitan Ministries, 1112 McCallie Ave.(across from Warner Park)

- Chattanooga Hamilton County Medical Society, 1917 E. Third St.

- Homeless Health Care Center, 717 E. 11th St.

- Children's Urgent Care, 910 Blackford St.

- Erlanger Health System, 975 E. Third St.

- Hamilton County Health Department general information, 209-8375

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