“This is an issue about people’s health. This is an issue about the future of our country. Health care is the largest rising cost. This is the one thing that can devastate an economy. Health care is going to be the issue of the next 10 years.”
That’s Larry Tarkington, a 54-year-old Omaha man who knows the everyday fear of living without health insurance.
Larry last had full health coverage in 2009 when he worked for Cox Communications in Omaha, but after the company closed his department, he and his co-workers suddenly found themselves without jobs…and health insurance.
“I had health care, dental, I had the whole nine yards,” Larry said. “I’m plus 50, so you know, you get worried when you don’t have health care.”
Larry spoke to us this week at “Rock Enroll,” an event organized by Enroll Nebraska, Hear Nebraska, and the Nebraska AIDS Project, designed to inform Nebraskans about their health insurance options through the new Health Insurance Marketplace followed by a free local concert at Omaha’s Slowdown music club.
At Rock Enroll, Larry and other Nebraskans spoke with trained navigators and certified application counselors to learn more about their insurance options in the Marketplace, then enjoyed a free concert with music from “Conchance” and “Rock Paper Dynamite.”
Since losing his job, Larry has worked many contract jobs and part-time jobs that did not offer health insurance. Once, when working at a deli counter, Larry sprained his knee and pulled a muscle in his leg because of being on his feet all day. Since he didn’t have health insurance, he couldn’t afford to go to a doctor.
Instead, Larry bought a knee brace online for $80 and worked through the pain.
“That really scared me. When I sprained my knee, I wondered if I was going to be able to get to work the next day,” Larry said. “I was like ‘What am I going to do? I’ve got to get to work.’”
Amanda Caillau also was unfamiliar with her insurance options until talking to a friend who happened to be a Certified Application Counselor in February. Amanda, 28, left her job as a restaurant manager to go back to school and train for her dream job – becoming an art teacher.
But that also meant she lost her insurance.
In the Marketplace, Amanda found a quality health insurance plan for less than $20 per month and just went to the doctor for the first time in several years for a regular check-up. When she went to pay afterwards, the nurses told her preventive care was free under her policy.
“It was such a relief to be able to go in and leave without a $200 bill,” she told the crowd at Rock Enroll.
Amanda shared her story with concertgoers to encourage them to search around for different options on HealthCare.gov before the March 31 deadline to sign up for 2014 coverage. She stressed how easy it was to compare insurance plans and find out the premium assistance she was eligible for.
“It’s an easy system to enroll now. There’s a lot of help,” said State Senator Jeremy Nordquist, who spoke to concertgoers at Rock Enroll.
Sen. Nordquist also found himself as a young professional who navigated the tricky process of buying individual coverage before the Affordable Care Act. “I had to list 10 years of medical history. Every doctor visit, every treatment I’d received, going all the way back to high school,” he said.
But when the Marketplace opened last fall, Sen. Nordquist said he was able to find an affordable insurance policy in just 20 minutes with 40 different options to choose from.
With premium assistance, most young Nebraskans will be able to find policies for less than $100 per month.
Time is running out to get covered before the March 31 deadline. Head to HealthCare.gov and see what options are available to you. It’s easier…and more affordable…than you might think.