If you’re like many Americans, long ago you may have tuned out news coverage of the much-maligned Affordable Care Act.
But with less than three weeks now until the March 31 deadline to sign up for coverage through the new health insurance marketplaces, it’s time to start paying attention — particularly if you or someone you know plans to take advantage of a supplemental healthcare assistance program like John Peter Smith Hospital’s JPS Connection.
Each year, about 50,000 Tarrant County residents sign up for the program, which provides financial aid to people with limited income who already have health insurance but struggle to pay their plan’s deductibles and co-insurance when seeking care provided by JPS.
Under JPS Connection, a family of four making up to $58,875 a year can receive assistance with co-pays for doctor appointments, specialized care and prescriptions.
And like most memberships, it expires each year and participants must renew their coverage to remain eligible.
This year there is an extra step in the process that people in Tarrant County seeking to retain their coverage should be aware of.
As JPS’s website explains: “JPS Connection is available only to people who are already taking full advantage of other sources of assistance available to them.”
That includes Medicare, Medicaid and health insurance coverage and subsidies obtained through the exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. Americans making between 138 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level may be eligible for federal subsidies to purchase insurance in the exchange.
Those making below 138 percent of the federal poverty level may be eligible for Medicaid, depending on individual circumstances.
JPS Connection assists eligible individuals and families making up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
But regardless of whether you receive a subsidy or are enrolled in Medicaid, all individuals interested in remaining eligible for JPS Connection must first take advantage of the federal marketplace, and time to do so is running short.
Doris Hunt, vice president of finance for JPS Health Network, told the Star-Telegram Editorial Board that JPS Connection applicants should not waste any more time: “March 31 is not the day to begin the process; March 31 is the day to already have completed it.”
“This is too important to risk waiting until the last minute, when both the government’s website and our Eligibility and Enrollment centers will undoubtedly be swamped. Certainly we hope that no one misses the deadline because they were waiting in line at the end of the day on March 31, but our financial counselors can only see so many people at once.”
To determine eligibility in the federal exchange, individuals can go to www.HealthCare.gov or www.CuidadoDeSalud.gov. To apply to JPS Connection, individuals can go to www.jpshealthnet.org.
The new healthcare law is complex, but those seeking to keep their JPS Connection plans must comply.