Starting in 2014, American citizens must have health insurance or pay a fee. Open enrollment on the Health Insurance Marketplace begins at midnight on Tuesday. Americans who are not currently covered will be able to sign up for benefits, which will take effect in January. The exchange will list available insurance option and their specifications side-by-side.

Toniann Richard, Executive Director of the Healthcare Collaborative of Rural Missouri, explains this portion of Obamacare is simply another way for people to purchase affordable heath insurance.

“You can go through a broker, you can go through a certified application counselor, through HCC and our affiliated network members, or you can go online and purchase insurance online on your own, pricing it out apples-to-apples, based on certain criteria that each insurance carrier is required to provide, based on their participation in the marketplace.”

Click to hear KMZU’s Sarah Scott speak with Richard:

Toniann Richard

Those on Medicare, Medicaid, or who have employer-sponsored health insurance do not need to drop those services. Richard encourages those without insurance to check out the online exchange to determine eligibility and benefits.

“If you fall between 100 and 400 percent of federal poverty level, you are able to get either a tax credit or a subsidy based on your adjusted gross household income,” said Richard, “And there is also other information that is on there relative to purchasing and the process. And it will walk you through step-by-step.”

Several hundred thousand Missourians are eligible for a subsidy, which will help pay for their insurance. Those who are covered by employer-sponsored health insurance may also be eligible for some benefits if premiums cost more than 9.5 percent of their income. That is the only way those on employer’s insurance is affected. These exchanges also do not extend to Medicare or Medicaid recipients.

The HCC will host information and enrollment sessions in the area. More information is available at

The Affordable Care Act is expected to have at least one very big benefit to health care facilities in the area. Click to hear KMZU’s Sarah Scott speak with Missouri Hospital Association spokesperson Dave Dillon:

Dave Dillon

“Individuals who have, for an extended amount of time, have been uninsured and therefore who have probably put off care because it’s been unaffordable to seek care, will instead of going when they absolutely need care to a hospital emergency department, they’ll be able to get themselves into a primary care physician’s office, or an urgent care opportunity. Because they now have insurance,” said Dillon.

Dillon explains this will allow people to live generally healthier lives.

Information on and access to the exchange is available at