obama-president_web.jpgMIAMI — Linda Epps may go down as a typical story in the early history of the Affordable Care Act. Epps has spent her career caring for others.

Yet this self-employed home health care provider has struggled to maintain her own healthcare. “I just couldn’t afford it on my salary” she confessed with misty eyes. 

Epps has been without health insurance, for seven years. Five years ago she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Without insurance she has not been able to properly care for herself or take the suggested medication to control her sugar levels.

“I know that’s dangerous. I am the sole supporter of two daughters and I need to be healthy for them,” she said. 

So like many others eager for help, Epps went to Community Health of South Florida Inc. (CHI) on Oct. 1, the nationwide enrollment launch date for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. 

It’s been a complicated issue that has found many wondering how it would affect them. Coverage, pricing and eligibility questions seemed confusing for some. To address those concerns and help educate the community, CHI  held an informational program and invited speakers from various agencies to explain the new health care program.

Hundreds showed up at the Doris Ison Center, 10300 S.W. 216th St. in Miami, for the program that also involved one-on-one enrollment assistance. Because the government’s website wasn’t functioning properly, however, enrollment staff had to take down names and contact information. By the end of the day they had close to 250 people with whom to follow up for enrollment assistance as soon as the Marketplace website was functioning again. 

One of those names on the list was Linda Epps. Despite the temporary setback she was enthusiastic, knowing that help was in the pipeline.

“Today I have been rescued,” Epps said.  “And now with my new insurance plan my girls will have coverage too until they are 26 years old. Me and my girls have been rescued!”

The online Insurance Marketplace offers several different levels of coverage from which to choose. The services covered and the corresponding premium costs vary, allowing people to select the type of care and the affordability appropriate to each family. These options can be viewed and compared online, or with a trained insurance plan specialist. There are out-of-pocket limits based on income. 

Enrollment for ACA continues through March 31, 2014. In order for their plans to be active by Jan. 1, enrollees must apply by Dec. 15.  Those who do not make the Dec.15th deadline will have the start of their coverage delayed. 

Next year, those without health insurance will be charged a penalty on their income taxes if they have not enrolled by the March 31 deadline.

Enrollment assistance will continue to be available at myriad health institutions including all CHI locations and satellite sites throughout the Keys, South Dade and Miami. Anyone can make an appointment with an outreach and enrollment assistant by calling 786-272-2100.