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Mooney: Here's the Obamacare info you need

I have to admit, I am excited! After months of discussion, debate, controversy and political fodder; in short, after much ado, we find ourselves only days away from the Oct. 1 launch of the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act -- or ObamaCare, as it has affectionately become known.

While there's little doubt the ACA will evolve, and controversy and challenges are expected to continue, what's exciting is the actual movement from philosophy to implementation. And for North Dakota, this takes shape in two separate programs: Medicaid Expansion and the Marketplace.

Medicaid Expansion was approved by the 2013 Legislative Assembly as a way of providing medical assistance or Medicaid to low-income individuals between the ages of 18 and 64 who do not have minor children in their household.

Currently -- and without this expansion -- an adult without minor children cannot get Medicaid if they find themselves in need. Through the expansion of Medicaid to include childless adults, we'll now have a safety net in place for all eligible North Dakotans.

It's expected that as many as 20,000 to 30,000 low-income North Dakotans will be affected by these changes as Medicaid opens to cover income levels up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.

In rough terms, that's $15,282 for a family of one, $31,322 for a family of four.

Also, all North Dakotans -- regardless of income -- now will be able to explore health insurance options through a new system called simply, "Marketplace."

The basis of the Marketplace is to level the playing field among insurance carriers and to insure that an essential, minimum amount of coverage is made available to all, regardless of the plan selected.

Privately purchased insurance options will be categorized as Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum and will offer a range of coverage -- from 60 percent to 90 percent, respectively.

A cost-share program based on income and family size is available to help ease the financial burden for people who can't get affordable or adequate coverage through their employers.

As Oct. 1 draws near, questions abound -- and individuals and businesses are finding themselves in need of direction and information. Community forums and informational meetings have begun to take place, and a variety of online resources are available, including HealthCare.gov, nd.bridgetobenefits.org, mn.gov/hix/, bcbsnd.com/healthreform, itstartswithbluend.com/ and kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator.

For immediate, personal guidance with no cost, readers can look to their local county social services office or contact a local Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services-certified application counselor by going to localhelp.healthcare.gov.

As we move to implementation, there's bound to be a lot of questions, concerns and frustrations. It's a relief to know we're not alone in this -- and that navigational partners will be there along the way.

Mooney is a Democrat from Cummings and represents District 20 in the North Dakota House of Representatives.

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