Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Health

Tampa Bay residents sign up as health insurance deadline looms

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — It took a ladder and gravity to teach construction worker Eric Jefferson everything he needed to know about health insurance.

Breaking a heel and ankle in a fall last year, the uninsured Jefferson said he accumulated $20,000 in medical bills he couldn't afford. Paying for physical therapy was out of the question.

"So I've been trying to do my own physical therapy," said Jefferson, 42, of Tampa.

But on Sunday Jefferson was one of a few dozen people who visited the Jackson Heights NFL Youth Education Town Center on Lake Avenue trying to beat today's deadline for signing up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The event was organized by the Family Healthcare Foundation in Tampa, one of numerous groups employing enrollment specialists called navigators.

Folks have until midnight tonight to sign up or face a potential tax penalty.

As it turned out, Jefferson has to come back. He said a glitch prevented him from getting a subsidy for which he should qualify. The problem, he said, is minor and he is confident he will get affordable insurance.

"I could have used the insurance when I got hurt," Jefferson said. "It's ridiculous to live without insurance. I'd avoid going to the doctor when a lot of stuff happens. I just forgot about it."

Melanie Hall, executive director of the foundation, said the ACA website was working quickly and smoothly on Sunday.

On average, it took about 30 to 40 minutes to sign up individuals for a plan, she said.

"We were braced for website (delays) this weekend" as people rushed to meet the deadline, Hall said. "I wouldn't say the site is 100 percent. I think there are times when there's a slow reaction time or times when someone occasionally gets kicked off. That's infrequent."

What's the tax penalty for most Americans who do not sign up?

For 2014, the penalty is the greater of either 1 percent of income or $95 per adult, $47.50 per child or $285 per family for the year, according to Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.

Not all face a penalty, including anyone who would have to pay more than 8 percent of their household income for the cheapest policy available.

The IRS can deduct the penalty from someone's tax refund. But the IRS cannot impose a property lien or garnish wages, according to the New York Times.

Chris Shoats, 24, of Brandon, who said he has never had health insurance, was prompted to sign up for a policy after a voice of authority told him to get moving.

"My grandmother sent me here," he said before sitting down with a navigator. "She told me it was near the last day and I better do it or they would take $100 out of my taxes."

One couple, Felicia and Glen Gant, waited for an open computer at the center to sign up. Felicia Gant already has insurance. So only Glen was signing up.

"He's really excited," she said. "But I'm still going to have to twist his arm to get him to visit the doctor."

William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

Big Tobacco’s anti-smoking ads begin after decade of delay

WASHINGTON — Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend — but not by choice. Under court order, the tobacco industry for the first time will be forced to advertise the deadly, ...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Owning dogs may be great for your heart and lower risk of death, study finds

Dog ownership correlates with lower rates of mortality and some fatal diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease, a study published this past week concluded.The study in the journal Scientific Reports found that canine ownership was associated wit...
Published: 11/19/17
New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

New shingles vaccine touted as a breakthrough for older adults

Medical researchers and government health policymakers, a cautious lot, normally take pains to keep expectations modest when they’re discussing some new finding or treatment.They warn about studies’ limitations. They point out what isn’t known. They ...
Published: 11/17/17
BayCare’s HealthHub breaks ground behind Valrico shopping center

BayCare’s HealthHub breaks ground behind Valrico shopping center

VALRICO — Health care officials broke ground Thursday on the long anticipated HealthHub at Bloomingdale, which will bring about 150 jobs to an area that’s experiencing tremendous growth and provide patients with the latest in technological care.A pro...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/19/17
In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

In Tampa Bay and elsewhere, early numbers show record sign-ups for Obamacare

Despite the budget cuts, the attempts to repeal and replace, and reports of sharp rises in premiums, Floridians and other Americans are signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act at record rates this year.Enrollment has surged 47 p...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Study: Mental quickness exercises can lower risk of dementia

Where did I leave my keys?As we age, it can take longer to answer a question like that.Humans begin to lose cognitive ability at age 25. Dementia, or the decline of memory most commonly seen in aging adults, takes hold early on and is gradual, but ac...
Published: 11/16/17
Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

Blood pressure of 130 is the new ‘high,’ according to update of guidelines

The nation’s heart experts tightened the guidelines for high blood pressure Monday, a change that will sharply increase the number of U.S. adults considered hypertensive in the hope that they, and their doctors, will address the deadly condition earl...
Published: 11/13/17
Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

Are Honey Nut Cheerios healthy? A look inside the box

I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios recently. It had been awhile. Regular Cheerios are more my thing. But sometimes I finish my box faster than my kids do and find myself straying to their side of the cupboard.Honey Nut is America’s best-selling break...
Published: 11/11/17
Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

Owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg faces federal inquiry over funds for low-income patients

The corporate owner of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg could be facing a serious federal investigation related to its commitment to take care of St. Petersburg’s poorest residents.In its most recent filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commiss...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/14/17
Father in New Tampa uses monkey Kookabuk to help young autism patients

Father in New Tampa uses monkey Kookabuk to help young autism patients

As a 7-year-old boy, Kevin Howard spent months in the hospital with a bone infection in his leg.A stuffed monkey named Kookabuk helped him make it through the scary experience."I was told he had magical powers," Howard said of the monkey, a gift from...
Published: 11/07/17
Updated: 11/19/17