Reaching the uninsured: Insurance fairs offer help in Rock, Walworth counties

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Monday, March 3, 2014

ELKHORN—Some think the Affordable Care Act signals the beginning of the country's descent into socialism and chaos.

Others think it's the dawn of a new era, when people won't have to hold fundraisers to pay for their medical expenses.

Either way, the act is now law, and the sign-up deadline is approaching.

In the next two weeks, officials in Rock and Walworth counties will be hosting health insurance enrollment fairs to get people signed up.

“If you don't have insurance, if you're losing insurance, or you've signed up for insurance and you think it's unaffordable, we can help you,” said Katherine Gaulke, chairwoman of the Walworth County Affordable Care Act Awareness Committee.

Applicants are facing two deadlines, Gaulke said.

In Wisconsin, an estimated 92,000 people will be dropped from BadgerCare on April 1.

If they want their insurance coverage to be seamless, they need to sign up and pay their first premium by March 15. If they do not, their insurance will not start until May 1.

The second important deadline is March 31, when all people must be signed up for insurance or face a “shared responsibility” penalty when they file their 2014 taxes.

The penalty is 1 percent of yearly income or $95 per adult and $47.50 per child—whichever is higher.

One advantage of attending an enrollment fair is learning about the subsidies that aren't always listed online.

For example, Common Ground Cooperative in Walworth County offers a no-deductible plan to people who meet the income requirements. That plan is not listed on the healthcare.gov website, Gaulke said.

People who want to sign up at one of the fairs should bring tax returns or a pay stub and the Social Security numbers for everyone in the family who needs insurance.

Tax returns are needed to help calculate this year's income and deductions. Your adjusted gross income determines what you will pay, Gaulke said.

“We've had people show up with all these medical files,” Gaulke said. “We don't need that anymore. There are no more preexisting condition clauses.”

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