Health insurance open enrollment: Get informed and get covered
November 14, 2014
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed "Obamacare," made affordable health insurance available to millions more Americans. Four years after its passage, however, be it a failure of the government to effectively communicate or opportunistic demonization of the law by its critics (e.g., "death panels"), most people aren’t aware of the basic elements of the law.
"Most people are aware there’s a penalty attached if you don’t have health insurance," said Randal Serr, director at Take Care Utah, "but what they’re not aware of is that there’s a lot of financial help available for most people that try to go through healthcare.gov. So it sounds like a stick when really there’s a carrot.
"There’s a huge carrot involved for people that do try to enroll."
Last year was the debut of the health insurance exchanges through which individuals and families can browse different insurance plans and determine what kind of subsidies from the government they are entitled to. States could either set up their own exchanges or participate on the main federal exchange (healthcare.gov). Utah went with the second option and 84,000 Utahns enrolled in exchange plans last year.
"People don’t understand the true cost of health care and how much help they get if they go through healthcare.gov," Serr said. "I think it was somewhere around 85 or 86 percent of those that signed up through healthcare.gov last year in Utah ended up getting some sort of help paying for their insurance month-to-month last year.
"The way I compare it is, you know when you get insurance through your job, your employer pays a huge portion of that cost. It’s the same way healthcare.gov works."
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The government contributions (or "subsidies") to the exchange insurance plans vary depending on factors like income and family situation and there are 101 different plans available to Utahns in Summit County (up from 91 plans a year ago). The prospect of wading through all those options can be daunting, but there are people who want to help you do just that, free of charge, right here in Park City.
The People’s Health Clinic, a nonprofit that provides low-cost health services to those in need, will be hosting health care insurance experts, or "navigators," throughout the enrollment period to guide people through the process and show them their insurance options.
Open enrollment for 2015 coverage runs from this Saturday, Nov. 15, through Sunday, Feb. 15.
"There was a study that was done that only 11 percent of Americans know that the marketplace is opening Nov. 15," said Nann Worel, executive director of the People’s Health Clinic. "So we really want to make a big push here in Park City to make sure that everybody that is interested in finding out more information about enrollment have that opportunity."
Take Care Utah, a network of navigators and enrollment assisters throughout the state, will be providing the specialists at the People’s Health Clinic (see accompanying info box for details) via a Park City Municipal grant to the Promise Park City Health Task Force.
Any questions at all about health care enrollment? These experts are the people you’ll want to talk to, and their services are 100 percent free of charge.
"There isn’t a problem that we haven’t seen at this point, that we haven’t been able to work through," said Serr. "So we pretty much help people from A to Z, whether that’s over the phone, or sitting down and applying, to working through a problem."
Appointments are required to meet with navigators at the People’s Health Clinic (call 435-333-1850) and will last around an hour, in order to allow for "one-on-one time to really focus on what the options are for their personal situations," said Worel.
"The navigator enrollment specialist isn’t going to say ‘this is the option that you need to do,’ but rather, ‘these are the options that are available to you, what do you want to do?’"
People need to bring three items to appointments: a Social Security number or documentation of legal status, proof of all income (recent pay stubs, tax returns) and a personal email address.
Everyone should be looking at their options now, even if they enrolled in an exchange plan last year, because there may be newer options that cost less or offer better benefits.
"You don’t have to, it’s just wise," said Serr, "because there’s going to be a little bit of cost-shifting and so forth."
The window to enroll in health insurance plans opens Saturday, Nov. 15, and runs through Feb. 15, 2015. The marketplace for Utahns is located at healthcare.gov.
For free, in-person guidance regarding your health insurance options, contact the People’s Health Clinic, 650 Round Valley Dr. at Quinn’s Junction, at 435-333-1850 for an appointment.
For any questions about health insurance in Utah, contact Take Care Utah by visiting the website (takecareutah.org) or dialing 2-1-1.
Enrollment specialists/navigators at the People’s Health Clinic
Nov. 18: 12 – 7 p.m.
Nov. 21: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Nov. 25: 12 – 7 p.m.
Dec. 5: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Dec. 9: 4 – 7 p.m.
Dec. 12: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Dec. 19: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Dec. 23: 4 – 7 p.m.
Jan. 6: 4 – 7 p.m.
Jan. 9: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Jan. 13: 4 – 7 p.m.
Jan. 16: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Jan. 27: 4 – 7 p.m.
Jan. 30: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Feb. 3: 4 – 7 p.m.
Feb. 6: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Feb. 10: 4 – 7 p.m.
Feb. 13: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
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