Hospital clearing up confusion about health insurance signup - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Hospital clearing up confusion about health insurance signup

NEWPORT, AR (KAIT) – The government shutdown may have overtaken the headlines, but a key piece of the Affordable Care Act began this week as well.

Starting Tuesday, people can go online and shop for health insurance coverage through the insurance marketplace, but people do not have to go through this confusing process alone.

Hospitals will become helpful resources for people in the weeks and months ahead. Many health care providers in Northeast Arkansas have gotten staff members trained to help the uninsured smoothly navigate the new insurance marketplace and find coverage.

Harris Hospital in Newport hopes to offer some help since most people are required to have health insurance coverage by 2014.

"As a key health care provider in Jackson County, we feel like it's our role to help educate the community in a way that's easy for them to understand and provide a resource for them to be able to come to navigate the marketplace and get information that they need," said Rebecca Pearrow, the hospital's marketing director. "It is a very confusing process to a lot of people."

Harris Hospital has posted flyers and signs around the facility to remind people that new affordable health insurance options are now available. Open enrollment began Tuesday for the health insurance marketplace, where people can now go online and review different plans.

"Open enrollment is your time to check out your options," said Sherri Meatte, the hospital's director of patient financial services.

Meatte can help people look at their options, too, as one of the hospital's certified application counselors.

"That is a designation by the federal government for someone who has studied and tested out to be certified to help someone navigate their way through the insurance marketplace," she said.

Harris Hospital now has six trained counselors and plans to add another 12 soon so that more will be available to set up meetings or take phone calls from concerned people.

"We are helping everybody regardless if they will ever use our facility or not. This is one of the most wonderful opportunities for an American to get insurance coverage we've ever had," Meatte said. "I would love for them to use Harris Hospital, but what I really want them to do is to go get coverage so that they can make healthcare decisions with insurance coverage and that fear factor of how I am going to pay this bill to be removed."

Meatte says calls and questions about open enrollment have poured in during the past week, but expects more to come. She hopes more people will contact counselors like her for help, but recommends that everyone check out the Web site for the insurance marketplace here.

"Everyone regardless of their income, regardless if they have health insurance through an employer should still go onto the insurance marketplace or meet with a certified application counselor," she said. "Have your data put into the system to see whether or not you are eligible for tax credits, reduced premiums and other plans because there are so many wonderful plans out there and a lot of great scenarios."

To contact Meatte or one of the other application counselors at Harris Hospital, call 870-512-3003.

Meatte says almost every area hospital should now have counselors on staff as well. Region 8 News learned AMMC in Paragould is in the midst of getting five people certified as counselors right now.

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