If you applied for unemployment benefits, you are entitled to free health insurance.

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Stacy Peterson will have a mammogram soon. It was one of the few important things she put off for years until she finally had an insurance plan last month to go to.

Peterson has spent most of the past seven years working remotely for a national email marketing company. According to her, in the first five cases, the employer considered her a contractor. She was eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, and the rates were affordable enough to keep her seeing a doctor.

About two years ago, she said, the IRS took harsh measures against the company’s hiring practices. They reclassified her as a worker, but decided not to grant her health benefits. The new status took her away from the insurance she had relied on for years. Acquiring a new tariff plan suddenly became economically impracticable, so she dropped the costs and only sought help when absolutely necessary. However, her position was precarious. She remembered a trip to the emergency room that ended up costing $ 3,500, even though she was given only a prescription for antibiotics.

Then, during the pandemic, business slowed down and Peterson received word that she would be fired.

While the job loss was devastating in many ways, it was also beneficial. The new manual is written in American Rescue PlanA law signed into law by President Joe Biden in March opened the door to treatment for her.

The law allowing for the third round of incentive audits and tax credits for children also offers free health insurance for people who filed for unemployment in 2021 and live in states where there is an Obamacare market. Colorado is one such state. Since Peterson received unemployment this year, she is one of the hundreds of thousands of people in that state who are eligible for the new program. The American bailout plan also expanded market access for people who did not file jobless claims this year.

For a single mother who worked hard to keep up with the rising cost of living on the subway, it was a huge relief. The call to schedule a mammogram was one of several she made as soon as she got the green light.

“I have avoided health products for so long, but now I just take full advantage of it,” she said. “It took a pandemic.”

Connect for Health Colorado, the nonprofit that runs Obamacare for the state, wants to make sure everyone who qualifies knows how to access the new program.

Technically, the free health plan is a tax credit, which means anyone who has applied for unemployment benefits and got coverage in the market this year can get a discount when filing their tax return in 2022. But you can get these savings in advance if you sign up. with Connect for Health Colorado now, which Peterson did.

People who got just one unemployment check in Colorado qualify for a free Silver plan from the market. Peterson actually pays $ 35 a month for the “gold plan” which offers more coverage for the costs of medical examinations and procedures at a higher monthly rate… The program will only be offered until the end of 2021.

Monica Caballeros, a spokesperson for Connect for Health Colorado, said the nonprofit has over 1,000 navigators who host virtual and face-to-face meetings to help people navigate the system.

“Know that we can provide you with expert assistance, and it’s free,” she told us.

Peterson said she greatly appreciates the extra help the agent gave her.

“He was full of knowledge and extremely patient, led me through all this, spent two hours with me. It was something that doesn’t happen anymore, ”she said. “He also asked me to tell everyone and everyone, because it’s not just for the unemployed.”

Connect for Health Colorado is also working to get the attention of people who cannot afford health care but have not filed unemployment claims. The American bailout plan temporarily changed the way marketplaces calculate subsidies for their plans. By the end of 2022, people who earn four times the federal poverty level can access plans at lower monthly rates than are usually available.

Until the American Rescue Plan was adopted, even the poorest Americans had to pay something for the Obamacare plans. For now, people who make up 150 percent of the federal poverty level (about $ 19,000 a year) can get free insurance. Caballeros said federal lawmakers are working to make these changes permanent.

Although Caballero said they were still trying to reach out to the Coloradans, those in the know were quick to take advantage of the agency’s cheaper plans.

Since the American Rescue Plan was approved in March and early May, 17,000 people across the state have signed up for new insurance. She said many existing clients have also updated their plans now that income levels are softer.

“I think what we’ve seen is, in the end, price is what matters and people sign up when they can afford the plans,” she said.

Donald Nwankwo increased his family’s reach when the new rules came into effect. Nwankwo has spent most of his career as a data analyst in corporate America, and his work has always brought health benefits. But his calling to serve a higher power put him in a new situation. He quit his job, went to seminary, and moved to Denver in 2018 to lead the Anglican Church of the Light of Christ in Harvey Park.

This year, new rules allowed Nwankwo to switch from the Bronze plan to the Silver plan at no extra cost. While he didn’t lose his job last year, he said cheaper insurance still matters a lot.

“We are a family of five and we are not rich,” he said. “I have to say that if I had been left there, I don’t know what I would have done.”

He also said that his experience with the program changed his view of insurance coverage as a topic of discussion in this country.

“This is no longer the political discussion I hear on the news. It’s real for me, ”he said.

Nwankwo said many of his parishioners are refugees who have struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic. He passionately spread the word that they could get a break if they needed insurance.

“For me, these are real families, parents with children,” he said.

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