Deadline near for health insurance sign-up

Uninsured Jackson County residents with questions and concerns about enrolling for health insurance coverage now have another person they can turn to for answers.

The deadline for filing for coverage through the federal Marketplace is Feb. 15. As of Jan. 16, more than 1,150 Jackson County residents had selected a plan or automatically re-enrolled for 2015.

Luvia Hesser, a Seymour resident, recently was trained and certified as a health care navigator. Her office is at the Community Health Center in the Community Agency Building in downtown Seymour.

The bilingual mother of two will serve as a resource for those who need help signing up for health insurance coverage through the federally facilitated Marketplace, which is found online at healthcare.gov.

The Marketplace offers private health insurance with rates based on income and is the result of the Affordable Care Act.

“I can educate consumers as to what’s out there,” Hesser said.

She previously worked as a staffing manager at Elwood Staffing. She began her position as a navigator about two weeks ago, became certified this week and replaces Dinorah Jamie.

So far, she’s assisted about five county residents, two of whom have officially signed up for an insurance plan.

As of Jan. 16, 185,730 Indiana consumers had selected plans or were automatically re-enrolled, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In August, the state reported there were more than 1,000 navigators available to assist Hoosiers in every county.

Hesser said navigators are useful because they can let people know their eligibility through the Marketplace, especially for those who aren’t computer savvy or are confused about how to sign up.

To meet with her, Hesser suggests making an appointment and bringing documents such as proof of income, a photo ID and possibly a birth certificate or Social Security card.

At the appointment, she can check to see what options are available and what costs will need to be paid out of pocket. If needed, she can help with the application process.

“Once people get a general idea of what the process is going to entail, they are a little more open to it,” she said. “Some of them are just a little bit reluctant to the transition.”

Three of the five people Hesser has assisted have been Hispanic. She said being bilingual has been an advantage to serve the county’s diverse population.

“I can help people out who would otherwise have a roadblock because I can communicate with people with language barriers,” she said.

Hesser said she’s flexible with scheduling appointments. As she becomes more familiar with the job, she plans to go out into the community and set up booths to offer assistance.

Javier Morante, who is the intake specialist at the health center, also is a certified navigator.

In 2013, when the Marketplace was rolled out as part of the Affordable Care Act, problems and errors were frequently reported among users trying to sign up online.

Hesser said she hasn’t experienced any issues, but she does encourage those wanting to sign up to have an email account.

Tammie Craig-Niewedde of Brownstown remembers when the website wasn’t functioning properly. She decided to wait until the open enrollment period last year to try again and was successful the second time around.

The cost, however, wasn’t exactly what she thought it would be.

“I found that at my income level — I’m a full-time student and work part time — I did not qualify for the offsets offered to those with higher incomes,” she said.

“Effectively, I would have had to spend out of pocket $600 to $900 per month, in addition to a $12,000 deductible for only 60/40 coverage, leaving me without coverage because I would not qualify for Medicaid under the current guidelines,” she said.

Craig-Niewedde believes the system fails lower-income people in Indiana on two factors: Indiana failed to expand Medicaid and even mediocre coverage is unaffordable through the Marketplace, she said.

Despite her experience, Craig-Niewedde said she recommends anyone wanting to sign up to check it out on an individual basis to see what choices are out there.

According to healthcare.gov, most people must have health coverage or pay a fee. If one doesn’t have coverage in 2015, a person will have to pay a penalty of either 2 percent of annual income or $325 per adult ($162.50 per child), whichever is higher.

A person can qualify for a special enrollment period if one has had a certain life change like getting married, having a baby or losing job-based health insurance.

At a glance

To make an appointment with Luvia Hesser, call 812-524-8388.

Community Health Center of Jackson County is at 113 N. Chestnut St., Seymour.

At a glance

To enroll for health care coverage, visit healthcare.gov/

To contact HealthCare.gov by phone, call 1-800-318-2596.

By the numbers

Number of Jackson County residents enrolled or re-enrolled in the federal Marketplace by ZIP code through Jan. 16;

Brownstown –137

Crothersville — 103

Medora — 55

Seymour — 801

ZIP codes with 50 or fewer plan selections are not included to protect individuals’ privacy.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services