WILKES-BARRE – Time’s nearly up to enroll.
And a group of Wilkes University pharmacy students on Saturday tried to make waiting to the last minute as painless as possible for those signing up for the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare.”
The 6-month-long sign-up period ends Monday.
Dr. Edward Foote, a professor of pharmacy at Wilkes, said a group of about 10 pharmacy students helped over 40 people in three sessions. Two other sessions were held at the Volunteers In Medicine clinic and the third one Saturday was held at Wilkes.
“People are supposed to be doing it themselves, but it’s overwhelming to a lot of people,” Foote said. “So the students can give some tips. Some people don’t have experience with insurance. Others don’t have experience operating the computers.”
A private room was set up with a computer with access to the healthcare.gov website. Foote said there are three primary companies offering plans with numerous options from each. It takes about an hour to sign up, more or less.
“Some people come in prepared and they just need that little push,” he said. “Others this is the first time looking at insurance plans.”
Fifth-year pharmacy student Rachel Zomerfeld said they walk people through the process
“We go online with them, we look at the benefit plans and the pros and cons of each plan,” she said. “It’s based on their income and other factors, such as if they are a single member or they have a household. We walk them through it and help them pick a plan. Then once they pick a plan, we help them to apply for it.”
Bob Brown said he came to sign up for “Obamacare” because he didn’t want to be penalized.
“I work, but the medical coverage there is too expensive and I can’t afford it,” he said. “And there’s some things they don’t give out, like dental.”
He said he needed a hand because he’s not handy on a computer.
“I know very little about Obamacare, so I came here to try to learn more and sign up,” he said. “I’m glad there’s someone here to help me, to walk me through it.”
Thomas McHugh, a certified health insurance marketplace navigator with the Advocacy Alliance based in Scranton, was on hand.
“The people that couldn’t afford healthcare before are finding out that now it’s relatively affordable,” he said. “I’m shocked at the number of people saying they don’t have healthcare at all.”
He said the people that have been coming through have been leaving with a positive attitude.
“One person told me they were drawing from their IRA and savings to pay their premiums and they couldn’t afford to do that anymore,” he said. “They went from $300 a month to $40 a month for premiums.”
He said the saving come through tax credits. The sliding scale starts a $11,500 yearly salary.
“If you make $11,500 you’ll get the maximum amount of tax credits and as your income goes up, your tax credits go down,” he said.