from staff reports
---- — St. Joseph Hospital has announced it will offer four additional free help sessions for area residents who wish to enroll in health insurance through the insurance Marketplace. The sessions will be between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on March 4, 13, 18 and 27 at St. Joseph Hospital.
Those who attend will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a specially trained expert to learn about their specific health insurance options and what insurance will cost based on their unique situation. In addition, attendees can get help actually enrolling in an insurance plan. Those who wish to attend should bring Social Security numbers and estimated 2014 income for everyone in their household who needs coverage.
“St. Joseph started hosting free weekly Marketplace help sessions in mid-January,” said Sandy Herman, director of marketing for St. Joseph Hospital. “We’ve had a lot of people come in for help because the Marketplace website can be a bit tricky to use – a number of the people we’ve helped just couldn’t complete the enrollment on their own. We’re pleased that so many people have been able to enroll in insurance and they now have easier access to quality healthcare, plus they have the peace of mind that comes with knowing they’re covered.”
The open enrollment period for obtaining health insurance ends March 31. To buy Marketplace insurance after open enrollment ends, individuals must have a “qualifying life event” such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of a child, or loss of a job. Those who fail to obtain health insurance by the deadline may be subject to a penalty that starts at a flat fee of $95 per adult for 2014 ($47.50 per child under 18). Depending on household income, those without health insurance may have to pay 1 percent of annual household income, up to a maximum equal to the national average annual premium for a “bronze” health insurance plan. The cost of the penalty will go up in 2015 and 2016. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the maximum penalty could be $5,000 for an individual or $12,000 for a family in 2016.
“With the federal deadline fast approaching, we’re trying to make it easier for people in Howard and the surrounding counties to get answers to their questions and get help enrolling,” noted Herman. “If we can make the process less stressful, we feel good.”
Herman added it’s important for people to understand that having health insurance doesn’t mean they can go wherever they want for care. “Those who plan to purchase health insurance through the health insurance Marketplace should know that St. Joseph Hospital and St. Vincent doctors will be participating only with the MDwise/Hoosier Alliance delivery plan. For patients who want to go to St. Joseph Hospital or St. Vincent doctors for care, it is important they choose the MDwise/Hoosier Alliance delivery system. If you choose another Marketplace insurance product, it will not cover your services at St. Joseph Hospital or any St. Vincent facility.”