ACA Marketplace enrollment counseling available locally

The federal website where consumers can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is shown on a computer screen in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The federal website where consumers can sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act is shown on a computer screen in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

MANISTEE — The 45-day period to buy health insurance for 2019 is underway in Michigan and certified counselors are available to local residents to assist with enrollment.

About 343,000 state residents are covered through the individual market. Open enrollment remains important for anyone not covered by health insurance through their employer or other means. About 18,000 people in northern Michigan are covered by health insurance plans provided through the federal Marketplace.

Enrollment began Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15.

“At Munson Healthcare we believe it’s important for northern Michigan residents to have the resources that are available to them through health insurance,” said Ed Ness, president and CEO of Munson Healthcare. “Having access to primary care doctors promotes health and catches health problems in the early stages.”

Munson Healthcare offers certified financial counselors at several facilities who can help the region’s

Sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act beginning this Thursday

Sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act began Nov. 1 and ends Dec. 15.

residents enroll in the Marketplace for 2019. Counselors are available in Cadillac, Frankfort, Gaylord, Grayling, Kalkaska, Manistee and Traverse City.

Munson Medical Center Patient Financial Services Manager Julie Moore said certified application counselors are available to review the various plans with individuals to assist in selecting a plan to best fit their needs.

“Whether people are seeking health care coverage for the first time or renewing their coverage, we have counselors happy to assist,” Moore said. “We can also answer questions related to navigating the healthcare.gov website.”

Regional resource numbers for financial counseling related to open enrollment include:

• Cadillac — Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital: (800) 336-3729; District Health Department No. 10: (231) 775-9942;

• Frankfort — Munson Healthcare Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital: (231) 935-5886;

• Manistee — Munson Healthcare Manistee Hospital: (231) 398-1566; District Health Department No. 10: (231) 723-3595; and

• Traverse City — Munson Medical Center: (231) 935-5886; Traverse Health Clinic: (231) 935-0799.

The Manistee Senior Center offers a Medicare Medicaid Assistance Program year-round. The program provides free assistance and education allowing those who are signed up to make informed health care coverage decisions.

Bill Tod, the counselor at the senior center, can help local seniors understand eligibility, enrollment, coverage, claims and appeals, and more.

“We’re giving people the opportunity to change their Medicare plans or enroll or re-enroll in Part D because that changes every year,” said Tod. “I advise people and tell them what’s going on in Medicare and if they ask advice I give it to them, but the decision is there’s.

“The only thing I recommend is for Part D, which is for drugs, recommend that they at least update that every year because the companies that have the drug plans they change those once a year. I’ve had people save anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 by redoing their enrollment.”

There is no cost for the services from the Senior Center, which gives priority first to residents over the age of 65.

Those looking for assistance with Part D should bring in a list of all their prescriptions, their membership card and their Medicare card. Appointments can be made from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Thursdays and Friday will be added if needed during open enrollment. Call the Senior Center at (231) 723-6477 to make an appointment for help with enrollment or with any other Medicaid or Medicare related questions.

People who do not meet the Dec. 15 deadline will not be able to enroll for 2019, unless their circumstances change and they meet specified criteria for enrollment outside of the window.

Eleven insurers are offering 123 plans — nine on the federal marketplace that enables consumers to qualify for income-based tax credits to help pay premiums.

“We are pleased to see one new company on the Marketplace this year making a total of nine companies offering plans on the Marketplace and two offering plans off the Marketplace,” said DIFS Director Patrick McPharlin. “This allows Michigan consumers an advantage when shopping for the right coverage for themselves and their families.”

The current list of insurers offering plans on the Marketplace are:

• Blue Care Network of Michigan;

• Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan;

• McLaren Health Plan Community;

• Meridian Health Plan of Michigan;

• Molina Healthcare of Michigan;

• Oscar Insurance Company;

• Physicians Health Plan;

• Priority Health; and

• Total Health Care USA.

Rates have stabilized for 2019, though a Kaiser Foundation study estimates that if not for changes by President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress, premiums would have been substantially lower next year.

Those who bought a plan through the marketplace last year will be auto-enrolled in the same plan unless they pick a different one.

In Michigan, premiums on average are rising 1.7 percent, though rate changes vary by insurer and plan.

Consumers shopping for coverage through the Marketplace can apply online at www.healthcare.gov, by mail, over the phone at 800-318-2596 or in person with the help of a local assister. Consumers shopping for coverage outside of the Marketplace can do so by contacting insurance companies directly or by utilizing the assistance of a licensed insurance agent. A list of companies that sell major medical coverage can be found through the DIFS website.

“Health insurance protects you from expensive medical bills when emergencies arise. It is important to have health coverage before the unexpected happens. Start shopping now so that you and your family are covered,” added McPharlin.

 

The Associated Press and contributed to this report.

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