March 2, 2014

Insurance deadline looms

Cass residents navigating health insurance exchange before March 31 arrival.

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Cass County residents continue to apply for the 2014 federal health insurance exchange, open enrollment for which closes at the end of the month.

Area Five Agency on Aging and Community Services in Logansport has a certified Affordable Care Act navigator on staff assisting clients with health care exchange enrollment applications every Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Elaine Zeider, manager of Family Services at Area Five, said the navigator helps clients “sort through the various types of plans to help them understand what’s out there to let them make an informed decision on what they’d like to do and how much it will cost.”

Zeider said depending on the size of the family of the person signing up for coverage, sessions can take anywhere from one to two hours.

Area Five typically assists clients that fall under certain income guidelines, but Zeider said the agency is offering assistance to anyone who needs help applying for health insurance through the federal exchange.

“We’re doing our best to assist everyone at the forefront,” Zeider said.

Turnouts for assistance have been steady since the marketplace opened Oct. 1 of last year, Zeider continued. By midday Wednesday, the agency had helped three people.

Several factors play into whether or not someone is able to successfully sign up for coverage.

“Some are successful getting coverage and they’re pleased and there are others who might not have qualified because they didn’t fit that affordability piece or they’re not going to get that tax credit,” Zeider said. “Unfortunately there’s always going to be those who fall through the cracks. If they didn’t fit one of the molds, we try another mold.”

Area Five is located at 1801 Smith St. Its phone number is 574-722-4451.

The Cass County Community Health Center, a subsidiary of Indiana Health Centers, has also been providing assistance to those seeking information on the federal health insurance marketplace.

Beatriz Grant-Toro, an outreach and enrollment assistant and Affordable Care Act navigator with Indiana Health Center offices in Cass and Miami counties, said she has been assisting 15 to 20 people a day.

“Outcomes have been great,” Grant-Toro said, adding that a lot of people seeking assistance “have had the mindset that they were not going to get any type of coverage, but a lot of people actually get into the system.”

Indiana Health Centers will be holding informational forums on the topic from 5:30 to 6 p.m. March 10, 17 and 24 at Silver Lake Restaurant & Lounge, 2430 E. Market St.

Cass County Community Health Center is located at 1700 Dividend Drive, Logansport. Because Grant-Toro is the only navigator, walk-ins are not always possible. Appointments can be scheduled and more information can be received by calling 574-722-7407 ext. 4620.

MDwise, an Indianapolis nonprofit health care company, will be hosting educational and enrollment sessions at Logansport Memorial Hospital, 1101 Michigan Ave throughout the month. Sessions are scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. March 3 in Conference Room DE, 6 to 8 p.m. March 11 in Conference Room DE and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 25 in Conference Room AB.

A press release from the Indiana Hospital Association states about 48,000 Indiana residents have enrolled in one of four coverage plans under the Indiana Health Insurance Marketplace since enrollment began.

The six-month enrollment period for coverage in 2014 ends March 31 with a deadline of March 15 for Indiana residents wanting coverage to begin by April 1. For coverage beginning May 1, residents must enroll in a plan between March 16 and March 31.

Those who do not enroll in a coverage plan by March 31 will not be able to receive health care coverage until the next enrollment period begins and be may subject to pay a penalty fee.

The next open enrollment period for coverage starting in 2015 starts Nov. 15, 2014.

People can apply for marketplace insurance outside enrollment dates only if they qualify because of a life event like getting married, having a child or changing employers.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK

If you go WHAT: Assistance with application process for health insurance marketplace WHERE: Area Five Agency on Aging and Community Services, 1801 Smith St., Logansport WHEN: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 5, 12, 19 and 26 WHAT: Health insurance marketplace informational forum WHERE: Silver Lake Restaurant & Lounge, 2430 E. Market St. WHEN: 5:30 to 6 p.m. March 10, 17 and 24 WHAT: Education and enrollment session for health insurance marketplace WHERE: Logansport Memorial Hospital, 1101 Michigan Ave. WHEN: 5 to 7 p.m. Monday in Conference Room DE, 6 to 8 p.m. March 11 in Conference Room DE and 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. March 25 in Conference Room AB