Health insurance signups here slowly increasing
From left, Mara Garcia and her daughter, Eliannys Cabrera, both of Morgan City, listen to Janice Willoughby, Teche Action Clinic certified marketplace application counselor, as Willoughby helps Garcia fill out a Health Insurance Marketplace application Tuesday at Teche Action Clinic in Morgan City.
(The Daily Review Photo by Zachary Fitzgerald)
Though issues still exist with getting people signed for health insurance through the online Health Insurance Marketplace, Teche Action Clinic employees say marketplace enrollments are slowly picking up, and they expect more people will sign up as the March 31 enrollment deadline approaches.
Dr. Gary Wiltz, Teche Action Clinic executive director, said the clinic hired workers to help enroll people in the Health Insurance Marketplace through Healthcare.gov, and has seen a “very robust response.”
Clinic workers are assisting people with signing up at its eight locations in Morgan City, Franklin, Pierre Part, Baldwin, Houma, Dulac, Edgard and Reserve. At its main office in Franklin, the clinic formed a Patient Assistance Center to assist people with signups, Wiltz said.
As of Dec. 31, the clinic helped about 3,200 people fill out health insurance applications and assisted 75 people actually enroll in health insurance plans, Paulette Lofton, Teche Action Clinic chief operating officer said.
Clinic workers educated 5,000 to 6,000 people about the marketplace, she said.
In Louisiana, 17,548 people have enrolled in the marketplace by the end of December as compared to 2,200 enrolled by the end of November, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported Monday.
The marketplace offers health insurance options for people who are uninsured or who pay for individual policies, rather than getting insurance through their jobs, the article stated.
Subsidies are also available for low to middle income families, the article said.
Lofton expects February and March will see an influx of people signing up because of the March 31 deadline to have insurance without facing penalties, she said.
Wiltz said about half the people Teche Action Clinic serves are uninsured. “We also do what’s called inreach,” Wiltz said. When people visit one of the clinic’s locations, in addition to the reason someone may visit the clinic, clinic workers take the opportunity to help people get signed up for health insurance, Wiltz said.
When the Health Insurance Marketplace opened in October, clinic employees helped people fill out paper applications because the marketplace website could not be accessed, Janice Willoughby, certified marketplace application counselor of Teche Action Clinic’s Morgan City branch, said.
Willoughby has educated about 500 people in Morgan City about the Health Insurance Marketplace since October, she said. The end of November was the first time Willoughby was able to put an application in the system, she said.
In the past few days, Willoughby has had a few people she could not get signed up due to issues with the website, she said. However, Willoughby has enrolled about 19 people in the Health Insurance Marketplace so far in January, she said.
Willoughby understands that some people do not want to enroll in the marketplace, but she sees her role as educating people of the need to consider enrolling to have coverage for medical issues, she said.
Three health insurance companies, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Louisiana Health Cooperative, and HMO Louisiana offer a total of 36 medical plans and 13 dental plans in Louisiana through the marketplace, Willoughby said.
Lofton said the clinic will help anyone who comes in to any of its locations “navigate through the Health Insurance Marketplace.”
At that same time, employees educated people about health insurance and answering their questions and concerns, Willoughby said. The clinic also does outreach to businesses so those businesses can inform their employees about the Affordable Care Act, Willoughby said.
A clinic employee also goes to the Patterson Community Center on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to help with signups.
“We’re assisting people with going online and doing the application, but we’re also doing medication assistance and helping people to see if they qualify for extra help and also helping them with Medicare,” Wiltz said.
Wiltz said most employers want to provide health insurance to their employees, but the cost is prohibiting them from doing so. “The Affordable Care Act can be very, very useful to folks and businesses,” Wiltz said.
“Our function is to try to get the service out to people,” Wiltz said. “So the other strategy we’re using is to try to contact businesses and see if they have an interest. And we’ll make our workers available to come to their place of employment or get the names of the employees that don’t have insurance and see if they qualify.”
Anyone in the Morgan City area who wants or help enrolling in the marketplace may call Teche Action Clinic’s Morgan City office at 985-384-2371 or visit the office located at 1124 7th St.