Family & Intercultural Resource Center offers free help with health insurance
Summit County residents who don’t have year-round health insurance through their job often share a struggle.
They have trouble navigating the state’s health-insurance system, obtaining affordable plans and understanding tax credits and penalties. Some give up in frustration or don’t realize they qualify to pay less.
The nonprofit Family and Intercultural Resource Center (FIRC) in Silverthorne is encouraging residents to prepare for the next open-enrollment period and is offering free assistance with the process.
Residents will be able to buy private insurance through the state marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado, from Nov. 1 through Jan. 29, and FIRC will host free walk-in help sessions in November.
FIRC development and volunteer director Anita Overmyer said the nonprofit wants to ensure residents who qualify receive tax credits to reduce their monthly costs.
“A lot of people, depending on their income, qualify for these discounts, and that really makes a lot of these plans more affordable,” she said. “The sooner you get enrolled, the sooner your coverage will start.”
People who enroll in a plan by Dec. 15 will see their insurance coverage start on Jan. 1.
Every year, the organization sees uninsured and underinsured individuals and families driven to crisis by unexpected medical bills.
FIRC is doing outreach with local ski resorts, restaurants and other businesses and organizations in hopes of reaching people age 19 to 39 and Latinos — two population groups with above-average uninsured rates.
Some residents don’t realize they qualify for Medicaid and could benefit from enrolling in the country’s health-insurance program for low-income households.
Overmyer said the organization also aims to educate, so people aren’t surprised by higher tax penalties next year.
With a penalty of $695 or more, “if you were expecting a $700 tax return, you would get $5 back or owe money,” she said, so it makes more sense to pay monthly insurance premiums rather than risk paying the tax penalty combined with any medical bills.
Those without health insurance in 2016 will pay a tax penalty that is the higher of these two amounts:
2.5 percent of yearly household income. The penalty using this method is calculated with income above the tax-filing threshold, which was about $10,150 for an individual in 2014, and the maximum penalty will be the national average premium for a bronze-level plan.
$695 per adult and $347.50 per child under 18. The maximum penalty per family using this method is $2,085.
Besides FIRC, the county’s Social Services division and local insurance brokers can also help residents understand their options and enroll in plans.
The FIRC will hold free walk-in sessions on both Nov. 2 and Nov. 18 at its Silverthorne location at 251 W. Fourth St. from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The nonprofit will also host a session at the Breckenridge library at 103 S. Harris St. on Nov. 18 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
People can also make free appointments with a health navigator. For more information about FIRC services or to schedule a free appointment with a health navigator, call 970-262-3888 or visit summitfirc.org.
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