Mario Castillo explains how the health insurance exchanges will work.

Mario Castillo explains how the health insurance exchanges will work.

Enrollment in the health insurance exchanges provided by the Affordable Care Act, opened this week and plenty of people in Brenham and Washington County are interested.

          Over 100 people came to a forum on the exchanges last (Wednesday) night at the Blinn College Student Center.

          They heard from Mario Castillo, the Regional Organizing Lead for Enroll America, a non-profit organization, set up to help people understand and enroll in the program.

          Castillo explained that the exchanges, ‘the marketplace’ that offer  private insurance from established insurance companies.  He outlined what  options are available and how ‘navigators’ can be found online to help them make the best decisions.01002HEALTHEXCHANGEFORUM


          Castillo faced numerous, sometimes challenging questions about the costs, how much the federal government would be involved in these insurance plans,  and who would be eligible for the plans.

          Castillo said that these exchanges are available mostly for people who cannot get health insurance from their employers and are not eligible for Medicaid or Medicare.

          He showed the costs on a sliding scale of costs according to income and family size.  The higher the premium the smaller the co-pay.  The least expensive plan would have a 60/40 co-pay while the most expensive, or platinum plan would have a 90/10 co-pay.

          Castillo said that people who go on the exchanges would get tax credits but if you do not you will pay an ever increasing tax penalty.

          He also answered concerns about employer health care.  Some said that they or family members had been reduced to part time so the employers could avoid providing the insurance.  Castillo said that the employers would pay a tax fine for doing this and, if they do this en masse, the fine would be much higher.

          The enrollment period will run until March 1st next year.  Castillo says the federal government will re-open  the exchanges each year.

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