Merit Health offering aid with ACA registration

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Just three weeks are left for open enrollment in the health insurance marketplace. Even with politicians pushing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as of now the insurance is still valid and open to the public.

Merit Health River Region is offering free help to those who need guidance through the healthcare marketplace. Eligibility screener Michelle Walton will be set up in the first floor atrium of the hospital from 1 to 2 p.m. every Tuesday through Jan. 31, to answer questions, give information and schedule free application assistance appointments.

“I try to catch all the patients that come through to see if they have insurance, and if not, (I ask) if they’re interested in the marketplace,” she said.

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Walton started her weekly information desk this Tuesday. People who stop by can schedule a free appointment with Walton in her office to go through their specific application on the computer.

“If they want to set up an appointment, they come in and we can talk in detail to find out how much they know about the marketplace. If they are renewal, they can also come, and I can do a renewal enrollment,” she said.

She said it takes about an hour and a half to complete the application, and people who wish to apply for insurance must bring photo identification, 2016 tax information or their most recent check stub. How much a person pays for their insurance depends on their income.

“Some people are actually exempt,” she said.

Walton said she hasn’t had any patients express concern about efforts by politicians to have the act repealed.

“They’re not concerned with it. They’re happy to get insurance, and get a nice premium and policy,” she said. “If you get it now, even if they repeal it, you are still going to have it for that year.”

Most insurance providers have opted-out of offering coverage through the act. In this area, Walton said Magnolia Ambetter is the only company offering coverage through the marketplace.

Walton is a certified counselor for open enrollment and said she has helped a lot of people over the past three years. During December 2016, she said she helped 10 to 15 people apply for insurance.

“They are using their insurance here and have had no problem with coverage,” she said.

Open enrollment began Nov. 1 and will end Jan. 31. Coverage lasts a year and begins Feb. 1 for anyone who signs up before Jan. 15.

“It’s just like regular insurance,” she said.

Walton works for Community Health Service and is at the hospital as a contractor. It is her job to follow up with all self-pay patients at River Region, and she screens those patients’ eligibility for Medicaid, disability and the marketplace.

“I think everybody needs insurance. If you don’t qualify for Medicaid, and you don’t qualify for Medicare, you need insurance. If you work and your job doesn’t offer insurance, the marketplace is a good place to go to get it,” she said.

To set up an appointment with Walton, call 601-883-5142.