Health care coverage is frequently complicated and worrisome, yet it improves and prolongs lives.
The process involves more complexities and anxieties in 2017 for thousands of Hoosiers, including folks in the Wabash Valley.
Open enrollment to purchase health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace began Wednesday and continues through Dec. 15. The signup period is half as long as previous years. The Trump-Pence administration in Washington cut the signup period in half and reduced funding for navigators — health care professionals who assist customers trying to find a health care plan on the ACA exchanges — by 82 percent in Indiana, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And, federal funds for public awareness ads were sliced by 90 percent.
Those undermining actions and confusion sewn by the White House and its congressional supporters are part of a thorny, chaotic year for Americans and their health care. Still, the ACA remains the law, despite dozens of attempts by U.S. House and Senate Republicans to repeal and replace it. Despite its flaws that could be addressed through sincere work by Congress, the ACA has decreased the number of uninsured Hoosiers from 15 percent in 2013 to 8 percent in 2016.
Health care coverage has expanded even further in Vigo County, where the uninsured rate fell from 20 percent to just 7 percent in that same three-year period.
This year’s enrollment period began in busy fashion for ACE navigators at Allied Service Providers of Indiana (also known as ASPIN) and the Wabash Valley Health Center. Julia Holloway told the Tribune- Star on Wednesday that the Indianapolis- based nonprofit ASPIN fielded 173 calls about ACA coverage the previous week. “It’s a popular program, and people are utilizing it,” she said. A similar level of inquiries flowed into the Wabash Valley Health Center, said CEO Charlie Welker and outreach and enrollment specialist Angie Gray.
Both outlets are poised to assist more people trying to buy health insurance through the federal exchange, or through the Healthy Indiana Plan (or HIP), which has opened up coverage to 400,000 low-income, working Hoosiers. The services offer tips to enroll.
• Insurance seekers can arrange a session with a navigator by calling ASPIN at 877-313-7215 (between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or leave a message) or by going online to AspinHealthnavigator.org. Though ASPIN’s navigator pool has been cut from 30 to 18 because of funding reductions, the agency still has a Terre Haute-based navigator, Holloway said.
• Appointments with navigators at the Wabash Valley Health Center are also available at the facility at 1436 Locust St. in Terre Haute. (The phone number is 812-232-7447.) A representative from the insurance company CareSource, the lone insurer locally on the ACA exchange, will be at the center to answer customer questions from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Welker said.
• Insurance seekers have expressed frustration that only one insurer is available here, Gray explained, and that their health care providers are not in its network. Still, multiple plans are offered with the CareSource package, Welker said.
• Also, both the health center and ASPIN noted that while premiums have gone up, federal subsidies for those who qualify (by income) may offset those increases. Holloway said, for example, that a 30-year-old in Indianapolis with a $24,000 annual income could get insurance on the modest bronze level for $91 a month or $129 for the silver plan, because of subsidies.
• Procrastinating is particularly problematic this year, because of the reduced enrollment period. Plus, tax penalties remain for people who fail to acquire health coverage, unless they receive an exemption.
Hoosiers with questions about what to do should utilize the existing services, without delay.