Answer Man: Where can I get Affordable Care Act info in Illinois?

News-DemocratOctober 29, 2013 

AP GRAPHIC

Is there an Illinois website for the health insurance exchange to help with the Affordable Care Act? I thought I saw it in the BND once. -- Matthew Donaldson

I'm sure President Obama will be happy to hear that there's at least two or three of you out there still wanting to explore your options under the new Affordable Care Act.

Well, actually, there's a lot more than that. Despite the constant drumbeat of sour news, Illinois residents have gone to www.getcoveredillinois.com 350,000 times. About 300,000 of those were unique visitors chalking up well over 1 million page views, according to a release last week.

Officials say they are encouraged by the number who have used the simple screening tool found under the "How to Get Covered" tab on the home page.

More than 100,000 people have answered the six basic household questions to see whether they should go to ABE (Application for Benefits Eligibility), the state's rebranded Medicaid page, or whether they should head to the federal marketplace at www.healthcare.gov, where they can browse through the options for private insurance.

So far, nearly 25,000 residents have created accounts and more than 14,000 have submitted applications for the state's expanded Medicaid program. More than 15,000 have used the ABE call center and experienced an average wait time of just eight seconds.

The Illinois website should be even more popular now since the state last week launched a Spanish-language version to serve the Latino population. To access it, just go to www.getcoveredillinois.com and click on the language tab in the upper right corner of the home page; if you need it, you can also find key fact sheets in Polish.

"Although Illinois is home to one of the largest Hispanic populations in the country, 70 percent of Hispanic men and women working full time still do not have health insurance," Gov. Pat Quinn said last week. "This website will help turn that statistic around and educate people about their options."

Of course, the website isn't the only option for people without computers. They also can call the Get Covered Illinois Help Disk at toll-free 866-311-1119, where they find information about either Medicaid or marketplace insurance. Since Oct. 1, more than 5,000 have called the helpline, which is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

And for those who still like the old-fashioned feel of doing things face to face, Illinois aims to please with more than 600 state-certified navigators trained to provide in-person assistance. You can find one by plugging your ZIP code in the appropriate blank on the Get Covered Illinois website.

According to the site, local navigators are ready to help at the Southwestern Illinois Healthcare Foundation centers in Belleville, Centreville, Collinsville, East St. Louis, Fairmont City, Granite City and Madison; the East Side Health District in East St. Louis; and county health departments in Belleville, Carlyle, Chester, Wood River, Waterloo and Nashville.

Unless deadlines change, you have until March 31 to enroll in a plan that satisfies the Affordable Care Act's guidelines. But if you want that coverage to start Jan. 1, you need to be signed up by Dec. 15.

What percentage of fans at St. Louis sporting events are from Illinois? -- R.P.

Since entering sporting events with the new security measures is slow enough these days without grilling fans on personal data, determining the percentage of fans who live in the Land of Lincoln is impossible.

The best the three St. Louis teams can say is that Illinois season-ticket holders number about 20 percent.

Today's trivia

What rookie phenom led the St. Louis Cardinals in hits, runs, RBIs and stolen bases when the Birds beat the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1931 World Series?

Answer to Tuesday's trivia: Legendary base burglar Lou Brock is the only player in history to steal 14 bases for one team during his World Series career. Only Eddie Collins matched that number, but he did it from 1910-1920 while playing for two teams. Brock is also the only player to steal three bases in one game twice -- first in the deciding Game 7 of the '67 series against Boston and again in Game 3 of the '68 series against Detroit. (The Dodgers' Willie Davis did it once in 1965 and so did the Pirates' Honus Wagner in 1909. In fact, Wagner stole the first base in World Series history in the top of the first of the first Series game ever played in 1903.) Brock had seven each in both the 1967 and 1968 fall classics, a single-series record. The National League's all-time top base thief with 938 also is tied for most runs scored in a seven-game World Series (8, 1967) and most hits in any series (13, 1968).

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 618-239-2465.

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