Informational meeting planned for 7 p.m. Thursday at Pratt Public Library

The Affordable Care Act requires that most people be covered by health insurance or pay a penalty. Anyone who was not covered in 2014 will pay the penalty when they file income taxes next April. Choosing to not buy insurance by Feb. 15 could result in a greater penalty the following April — $325 per person or $975 for a family, or 2 percent of the annual household income above the tax filing threshold, whichever is greater.

Think you can’t afford health insurance? Eighty percent of Kansans insured in the Kansas Health Insurance Marketplace benefit from premium tax credits.

Not covered by an employer and confused by online enrollment in the marketplace? A navigator can help.

Lisa Hart is a certified marketplace navigator employed at Pratt Regional Medical Center, a program funded by the hospital and the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund.

The hospital was contacted by the United Methodist Health Ministry, Chief Financial Officer Vincent Wilczek said. He and Susan Page, chief executive officer discussed the offer of 50 percent funding.

“We felt this was a way to help fulfill the mission of the facility,” he said.

Hart received about 30 hours of training about protecting an individual’s personal information, a crash course in health insurance terminology, how to find the marketplace and use the website. A portion of the training centered on what she could and could not do.

“The number one thing I’m not allowed to do is sell insurance,” Hart said. She will focus on guiding people through the process of choosing a policy and promised to “hold their hand” if necessary.

In just a month, she’s been busy. Some people don’t have a computer or the skills to navigate the marketplace website, or they come to her, saying, “this is where I gave up.” She noted that the process has been simplified since it was initiated in 2013.

One of Hart’s tasks has been to set up programs to explain the services of a navigator. She will present an informational program Thursday at the Pratt Public Library. One-on-one help will not be available at that meeting, but participants are welcome to set up an appointment to meet with her at the hospital.

She is in the office from 8 to 4:30 Monday through Friday and is willing to meet after hours or on weekends at the office if necessary. The process takes a couple of hours, she said. An individual needs to bring several things to the meeting:

n Names, birthdates and Social Security numbers for everyone in the household

n Projected household income

n Tax information, such as filing status and number of dependents. If employed, the employer’s identification number (available on the last W-2 form) will be needed.

n Immigration documentation and supporting identification numbers

n To submit an online application, you will need and email address and password to create a Marketplace account. A navigator can help you create an email address if you do not have one.

In addition to the presentation at the library, Hart also had a booth at last weekend’s Dancaster Craft Show and will have a table at the PRMC Health Fair on Dec. 6.

For coverage to begin Jan. 1, a person must be signed up by Dec. 15. Signup extends through Feb. 15 for coverage beginning March 1, to avoid paying a penalty in 2016.

Hart was a customer service manager for the Pratt Walmart for four years, was office manager for SouthWest Kansas Area Agency on Aging for five years, and operated her own business, Hart to Hart Gardenscapes.

She will serve the Pratt area and also towns where PRMC has satellite clinics, such as Stafford, St. John and Kinsley and Dodge City, where PRMC physicians provide services. The outreach may extend to Ashland, Coldwater and Medicine Lodge, according to Wilczek. Hart will coordinate with a part-time marketplace navigator at the Iroquois Center for Human Development in Greensburg.