Help with understanding the new healthcare landscape and signing up for coverage is available from at least two local sources: Coulee Medical Center and Foisy and Kennedy Insurance.
Both are taking appointments for people needing assistance enrolling in Washington Health Insurance Exchange that opened Oct. 1.
“By calling in advance and making an appointment, we can make sure everyone who needs help, gets it,” said Coulee Medical Center Patient Access Manager Melanie Slatina. She noted that anyone can also sign up for coverage online via the state’s website at www.healthplanfinder.org
Under the new law, health insurance arranged through that state exchange before Dec. 23 will go into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
“People have between now and Dec. 23 to sign up but we do urge those who need help to call now,” Slatina said. Health insurance for those who sign up after Dec. 23 will not go into effect until February.
According to Slatina, the process of signing up for insurance through the exchange can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours. “Calling ahead for an appointment will make sure everyone gets the help they may need,” she said.
State officials expect as many as 130,000 people will enroll in health plans through the online marketplace by the end of the year. Enrollment could reach 500,000 by 2017.
To help prepare for the unveiling of the insurance exchange, Coulee Medical Center assigned five staff members to enroll in advanced training courses designed to help patients to enroll in new insurance offerings. Two computer stations have also been set up in the lobby for members of the public who wish to enroll in the insurance exchange.
Kennedy said he’s been keeping up on the research needed to help people make good choices. He noted, however, that CMC’s personel have also been trained to help those eligible for Washington Apple Health, the state’s new Medicaid program, but he has not. He said he’ll help anyone he can navigate the new health insurance landscape, whether he eventually becomes their broker or not.
“For many low income and uninsured patients, the Health Insurance Exchange can help improve their state of health by making it easier and more affordable to access preventive care,” said Coulee Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Scott Graham. “It also offers the possibility of reducing the burden we face caring for people who are unable to pay for their care.”
Anyone can make an appointment for help enrolling for the Health Insurance Exchange by calling Melanie Slatina at (509) 633-6288. Kennedy’s number is 633-0410.
Additionally, Coulee Medical Center will hold an insurance fair with free walk-in help available twice a day during the week of October 21-25.