Hospital clearing up confusion about health insurance signup

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

Starting Tuesday, people can go online and shop forhealth insurance coverage through the insurance marketplace, but people do nothave to go through this confusing process alone.

Hospitals will become helpful resources for people in theweeks and months ahead. Many health care providers in Northeast Arkansas havegotten staff members trained to help the uninsured smoothly navigate the newinsurance marketplace and find coverage.

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

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

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

"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 someonewho has studied and tested out to be certified to help someone navigate theirway through the insurance marketplace," she said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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