LINCOLN SQUARE — As the March 31 deadline approaches for people to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Ald. Ameya Pawar is pushing to inform 47th Ward residents of their options — and looming penalties.
"Obamacare" enrollment sessions — with secure computers and "navigators" to walk people through the process — are being held in tandem with this week's Mariano's job fairs: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday at Sulzer Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave.; and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at McPherson Elementary, 4728 N. Wolcott Ave.
"Our general area has the most number of eligible residents for the Affordable Care Act," said Pawar.
"The number is staggering. It cuts into this narrative that this is yet another entitlement program ... that it's only for the young and only for the poor," he said. "It applies to everybody. A lot of middle-income wage earners are not insured."
In addition to hosting the signup sessions, the alderman said he is considering an informational robocall to spread the word.
"This is going to be a big issue once people start to get hit with fines," said Pawar.
Beginning with 2014 tax filings, the IRS will collect a penalty from the uninsured.
For example, a single adult who earns more than $19,650 would pay a fine of 1 percent of their annual income for 2014. That amount increases to 2 percent for 2015 and 2.5 percent for 2016, with the fine adjusted for inflation in succeeding years.
"Regardless of where your political leanings are, Obamacare is the law and it's about to take effect," said Pawar. "There might be a plan that fits your needs or fits your budget."
According to spokesman Nick Przybyciel, 53 percent of patients treated at Swedish Covenant are either uninsured or on Medicaid.
Block party attendees will meet one-on-one with a certified healthcare navigator who can help individuals select an appropriate insurance plan. Representatives from Swedish Covenant and Erie Family Health Center will also be on hand to assist people with choosing a primary care physician and even scheduling a doctor's appointment.
To participate in any of the above enrollment sessions, individuals will need to provide: A valid Social Security number, or document number for legal immigrants; employer and income verification for every member of the household in need of coverage (W-2, pay stub, etc.); and policy numbers for any current health insurance plans.