OCTOBER 1 – Amid the controversy and uncertainty of health care reform, the Health Department of Northwest Michigan has one clear objective: To help people across Northern Michigan navigate the complex but important process of enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace, which opens for business this week.
Twenty percent of adults age 19 to 64 in Northern Michigan are uninsured, second only to the number of uninsured residents in the Metro Detroit region of the state. Thanks to funding from the Northern Health Plan (NHP) and Michigan Consumers for Healthcare (MCH), the Health Department has launched Enroll Northern Michigan, an initiative comprised of outreach, education and enrollment activities, with a goal to enroll 50 percent of the region's low-income, uninsured individuals in the Health Insurance Exchange and Medicaid by September 2014. As part of the initiative, all staff members in the Health Department's toll-free call center have completed the training to become Certified Application Counselors (CACs) to assist people with the enrollment process. They are available Monday through Friday, 8am-5pm by calling (800) 432-4121. One-on-one appointments for enrollment assistance, as well as small group classes, will become available in late October in local Health Department offices. Meanwhile, individuals and small businesses are encouraged to visit www.healthcare.gov for answers to common questions, and to learn about the enrollment process.
In addition, the Health Department is supporting agencies across Northern Michigan, including hospitals, Federally-qualified health clinics and others, who are gearing up to provide enrollment assistance. Pat Borowiak, Public Health Supervisor for the Health Department, has completed the extensive training required to become a "Navigator" – someone trained to help consumers, small businesses and their employees as they look for health coverage options through the Marketplace, including completing eligibility and enrollment forms.
"As the Health Insurance Marketplace goes live, we urge everyone to take their time in deciding which option will best suit their needs," said Pat Fralick, the Health Department's Director of Family and Community Health. "We're here to help." About half the uninsured will be eligible for the Healthy Michigan Plan, expected to be available in April 2014. Enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace is open between October 1, 2013 and March 31, 2014. Visit www.healthcare.org or call the Health Department at (800) 432-4121 for more information.