People encouraged to utilize free or low-cost health insurance programs | CraigDailyPress.com

People encouraged to utilize free or low-cost health insurance programs

Lauren Blair

Pregnant women, and their households, can qualify for Medicaid with income levels up to nearly twice the poverty level. Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association is encouraging people to find out if they qualify for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus. Tax credits are also available through Connect for Health Colorado to reduce costs for those with private health insurance plans.

Saturday marks the start of open enrollment for 2015 health insurance plans.

The Connect for Health Colorado insurance marketplace has 176 plans to choose from for 2015.

What's more, any individual who makes less than $45,960 per year and does not have health insurance available through an employer can qualify for tax credits that can help offset monthly premiums, according to the Connect for Health website. For a family of four, the qualifying annual income to receive tax credits is $94,200.

A family of four that makes less than $62,000 per year, however, can qualify for free or low-cost health insurance state aid programs such as Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+), according to numbers provided by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing

Individuals can apply and enroll in these programs any time of the year — outside of the open enrollment period — unlike the regular health insurance marketplace.

Colorado is one of 27 states in addition to the District of Columbia that have opted to expand Medicaid, making free or low-cost health coverage available to a much larger population, including more adults without children between the ages of 18 to 64.

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"A lot of people just don't think they're going to qualify for it because years ago, the only people that would qualify for it was pregnant women and children," said Eligibility Coordinator at Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association Jenny Earls. "It's expanded, so a lot more people qualify now."

Medicaid is a public health assistance program for qualifying individuals and families, including children, pregnant women, adults and the disabled.

The program includes doctor visits, prescriptions, mental health services, dental, x-rays and more.

Qualifying income levels are based on family size and the federal poverty level, which is $11,670 for an individual or $23,850 for a family of four in 2014.

Children qualify for Medicaid if their household income is up to 1.42 times the federal poverty level.

That means, in a family of four, children can qualify for the program if their household income is $33,876 or less, whereas adults in a family of four qualify with a household income of $25,524 or less, or 1.07 times the poverty level.

The applications are processed through the Social Services Department, however, the VNA is a certified application assistance site, meaning they are equipped to help people through the process.

"We help them wade through the muddy waters of the application process and help them gather items they need to speed up the process as much as possible," Earls said. "We can sit down and take a little more time to help people understand the application and make sure they answer the questions to the best of their ability."

The VNA is also a presumptive eligibility site, which means they can provide temporary coverage to women and children who submit applications for Medicaid or CHP+ while they are waiting for their applications to go through.

"We can actually put on temporary coverage for 45 days so they can start seeing a doctor immediately," Earls said.

If a person's application is denied, however, they only can receive the temporary coverage once per every 365 days, even if they reapply within that same time period.

Pregnant women, and their households, can qualify for Medicaid with income levels up to nearly twice the poverty level.

CHP+ is a public, low-cost health insurance for children and pregnant women who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay for private health insurance, according to the DPHE, which administers the program.

The plan covers regular checkups, immunizations, prescription medicine, vision and even dental for children.

The program covers those who make anywhere from 1.43 to 2.6 times the federal poverty level. The income threshold for a family of four to qualify for CHP+ is up to $62,000 per year.

Because both programs are administered by the DHCPF, only one application is necessary to apply for both programs.

"When you apply for Colorado Medicaid, you are applying for both Medicaid and CHP+. You do not need to turn in more than one application for you or your family," according to the DHCPF website.

In 2011, 440 children were eligible for either Medicaid or CHP+ but not enrolled, according to the Colorado Health Institute, meaning they were missing out on affordable, high-quality care.

"If people qualify for it, we want to get them on it. They don't have to stay on it by any means," Earls said. "Some people having hard times — if they're going through a little rough patch, between jobs or something — it doesn't mean they're going to be on the programs for the rest of their life."

Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.