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Placer County’s Human Services Department has been busy preparing for the start of the federal Affordable Care Act.

The estimated 33,000 county residents without health insurance will soon be eligible for free or low-cost insurance through Covered California, the state-run agency that will manage the state’s health insurance exchange and enroll people for insurance coverage.

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The exchange, which opened Oct. 1, 2013, will enable residents to apply for health care insurance that will take effect January 1, 2014. Placer County’s trained staff is using its existing eligibility and enrollment operations for Medi-Cal, CalWORKs, CalFresh and Refugee Programs to guide clients in selecting the appropriate insurance plan and enrolling clients in those plans. During the opening days of the exchange, Placer County was able to quickly respond to the calls it received.

For the past few months, county staff has been becoming versed in the new programs, rules and policies, and learning how to best serve the soon-to-be covered populations. Applicants must meet eligibility criteria, including being a U.S. citizen or legal resident, being a California resident, not being incarcerated and meeting income levels.ย 

“We have dedicated staff working to set up a system to handle the increase in clients seeking health insurance and to ensure that existing clients are receiving their full benefits,” said County Human Services Director Cheryl S. Davis. “While there may be some hiccups as the nation implements this huge program, here in Placer County we are prepared and adaptable to deal with any situation that may arise.”

There are several ways for applicants to enroll in health care programs: in person, online, by phone and by mail. Additionally, by coordinating with community groups and faith-based organizations, and expanding the county’s call center, the county’s Human Services is better positioned to accomplish its core mission of serving the health and nutrition needs of Placer County children, families and individuals.

There are several agencies with which Placer County is partnering that can help individuals apply for health care coverage:ย 

  • North Tahoe Family Resource Center;
  • Lighthouse Family Resource Center in Lincoln;
  • KidsFirst in Auburn and Roseville;
  • Stand Up Placer;
  • Welcome Home, and
  • Placer People of Faith Together.

Under the Affordable Care Act, , small businesses with less than 50 employees can offer employee health plans much as large employers do, because of the Small Business Health Insurance Options Program. The program is designed to keep costs low through group purchasing power and tax credits for eligible businesses. The program allows businesses to determine how much they want to contribute to employee coverage.

Small businesses that participate in this program will apply for coverage through a private-sector insurance broker.

Those who need healthcare coverage before January should contact Placer County Human Services at 888-385-5160.

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