Locals aren't using public libraries to sign up for Obamacare - WRBL

Locals aren't using public libraries to sign up for Obamacare

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COLUMBUS, Ga. -

Despite the partial government shutdown, applications for Obamacare are available to the public today. Not many people locally, however, are using public computers to sign up.

Local libraries are prepared to help citizens in any way they can as they navigate the new healthcare marketplace online. During the first day of open enrollment, however, they aren't feeling very needed.

While the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries' computer labs were pretty much booked solid all day, none of the users were asking for help signing up for health insurance.

Henry McCoy, programming coordinator for Columbus' library network, says, "Computer use is one of our most popular services because there is a wide swath of our community that still does not have Internet access in their homes, so we not only have wi-fi at all of our branches, but all of our computers normally fill up with people conducting their normal business."

McCoy says other news, including a government shutdown, has the public's attention.

If you didn't take the opportunity to sign up on the first day, there's still time. Most people have until the beginning of 2014 to get health insurance.

Some Americans are considered exempt if they fall under a variety of categories including homelessness and income-restrictions.

Open enrollment ends March 1, and the penalty for those who aren't exempt and are uninsured is 1% of your income, or $95, whichever is higher. It will increase yearly.

If you aren't planning on signing up because the process seems daunting, library workers can help you on the website every step of the way.

"We show them how to get to that, and if they have questions about how to access the application there or how to find out more information, we'll go through the website with them," says McCoy, "and then we have our instruction sheet that has such as who might be exempt from having to get the plans. It goes through all of those categories."

Libraries have experience helping the public on a large scale. After Hurricane Katrina McCoy says libraries across the south helped thousands of people apply for emergency aid through FEMA.

All the information you need to sign up for your new health insurance can be found at www.healthcare.gov. You can also call the toll-free number 1(800) 318-2596 for help.

If you apply by Dec. 15, you'll be covered starting Jan. 1 of next year.

Jessi Mitchell

Jessi joined the WRBL news team in October 2012 after working as a freelance production assistant for MTV Networks in Los Angeles.
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