Nancy Vaughan column: Health care enrollment help is available

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By Nancy Vaughan | For The Herald Bulletin Oct 28, 2018 
Since passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010, Madison County’s rate of uninsured has dropped more than five percent. That represents 6,725 people.
Still, more than 14,000 county residents remain uninsured despite the availability of affordable options for most. In all likelihood, the ongoing political climate has led many to believe that health insurance options are no longer available, or that they are not affordable. That’s why the Madison County Covering Kids and Families Coalition (CKF) is offering three easy opportunities to get information and assistance during the annual open enrollment period that begins Nov. 1.
Family Health and Education Nights will be held at public libraries in Anderson (Nov. 8), Elwood (Nov. 14) and Alexandria (Nov. 29). All offer free assistance in applying for health care coverage and additional services including Christmas assistance, 21st Century Scholars, higher education assistance and more. Attendees should bring social security numbers, birth certificates and proof of income. The Anderson and Elwood hours are 5 to 7:30 p.m.; Alexandria hours are 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. The events are sponsored by Covering Kids & Families/United Way of Madison County, Ivy Tech Community College, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, and the hosting libraries.
Nov. 1 through Dec. 15 is crunch time for everyone who is uninsured and for those currently on a Marketplace or Healthy Indiana Plan to review and make plan or provider changes if they choose. Madison County CKF partners who provide navigators for enrollment assistance include Aspire, Community Hospital Anderson, Jane Pauley Community Health Center, Madison County Community Health Center, Open Door Health Services, St. Vincent Anderson Regional Hospital/RUAH and United Way of Madison County. Hours, locations and additional information are available by calling 2-1-1.
Open enrollment is the only time people can apply for Marketplace coverage without a qualifying event (such as job loss or other life event that causes loss of coverage). The Marketplace offers insurance plans for people above the federal poverty level (FPL), and the ACA provides for financial assistance through a tax credit or extra savings plans for households up to 400 percent of FPL, or $98,400 for a family of four.
While individuals can sign up for coverage online, navigators can assist in understanding the terms (co-pay, deductible, PPO, etc.) and determining the available providers. They can also help individuals calculate financial assistance options.
For persons with household incomes up to 138 percent of FPL, Indiana’s expanded Medicaid program, called the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) has year-round enrollment, but open enrollment is the only time currently enrolled HIP members can change their insurance provider. If they do not want to make a change, no action is necessary. Hoosier Healthwise, Indiana’s coverage for children in qualifying households, is also open for enrollment year round.
Health insurance premiums are determined by the geographic location, the person’s age and tobacco use. Under the ACA, all plans provide preventive services that are not subject to a deductible. With financial assistance options up to 400 percent of the FPL, most Madison County residents qualify for assistance.
Access to health care, including preventative services, is a key component of financial stability. The information required to make an informed choice is readily available in Madison County.