Another huge piece of Obamacare is about to go into effect, and in Illinois that means a big push to hire a temporary army of workers who will help people sign up for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Workshops and seminars are also popping up all over Chicago to walk people through a new concept: an online marketplace for health insurance where shoppers compare prices for different insurance policies and varying levels of coverage.
It all goes into effect October 1 when online exchanges begin enrolling people.
At one seminar on Wednesday, women who were small business owners gathered to learn the details as it related to them.
Kitty Kurth was in that group, one of the owners of a political consultancy Kurth Lampe.
She said she and her husband haven’t been able to afford health insurance for years, and the breaking point came when she decided to work less to take care of her mother.
"The premium became more than my mortgage," Kurth explained. "And so I had to choose between paying for insurance or taking care of my dying mother>"
She said she and her husband joke that their insurance plan is for her not to get sick, and for him "to fly to Europe and visit clients, where they have universal health care."
Whether or not Kurth and Kevin Lampe will finally be able to afford health coverage is still a question, however. Unlike other states, Illinois hasn’t yet released information with hard numbers showing what people would pay depending on the kind of coverage they choose.
But there are tax credits. For example, small businesses may qualify for a 50 percent tax credit depending on how many employees they have and how much of their employees' premiums they pay.
But at the heart of the Affordable Care Act is a goal of reducing the number of uninsured, which currently sits at about one million people in Illinois and roughly 50 million nationwide.
And then there are people like Lampe and Kurth.
"We’re not poor enough to be covered by Medicaid but not rich enough to afford health insurance,” explained Kurth. "People think this is about poor people, but it’s not. It’s small businesses. There are lots like me, with four or five employees. ... We just can’t get hit by a bus."
The website HealthCare.gov is the federal government's online portal with information about Obamacare. The state's website is still under development and will be ready by Oct. 1. Until then, Illinois residents can visit information pages on Illinois.gov.
Starting October 1, there are two online exchanges where people can begin comparison shopping and enrolling for insurance:
In Illinois, 44 community organizations received grants to run in-person counselor programs, also known as health navigators.
For example, the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago plans to hold town hall meetings in Auburn, Gresham, and Greater Grand Crossing.
Also, people can check with their local churches, alderman, state representative or congressional leaders. Their websites may list workshops and seminars on the Affordable Care Act as they’re organized and scheduled.
Illinois.gov: Health Care Reform & Illinois