Oakwood to help community understand, enroll in Health Insurance Marketplace

With the deadline for the initial Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment period rapidly approaching, Oakwood Healthcare is doing its best to help the uninsured get the answers they want and the insurance they need. The healthcare system is hosting two community education forums and enrollment opportunities on Dec. 9 at Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center in Dearborn, where Gov. Rick Snyder signed the Medicaid Expansion bill earlier this year.

Called ‘Understanding the Health Insurance Marketplace,’ the seminars are a cooperative effort among Oakwood, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), Enroll America and the ACCESS Community Health and Research Center, which is based in Dearborn. There will also be opportunities to meet with navigators to enroll in insurance coverage to be effective in 2014. The sessions will take place from 2-3 p.m. and from 6-7 p.m..

“It’s really about education, not just enrollment,” said Adnan Hammad, director of ACCESS. “Our community at large lacks information, lacks knowledge of what the Affordable Care Act is all about.”

Part of that is due to misconceptions and a general lack of understanding in media reports. Additional confusion was caused when healthcare.gov crashed soon after it ‘went live’ in the middle of October and has been plagued with glitches ever since. Those issues have since been fixed. Erin Knott, director of Enroll America for Michigan, said she shared the frustrations of consumers and promised they would soon be a thing of the past.

“Each day we’re getting reports that there have been improvements,” Knott said. “We’re encouraging people to be patient, to keep trying.”

“We understand that there are a lot of questions about this process,” said Mary Zatina, senior vice president of government relations and corporate communications for Oakwood. “We want to make ourselves available, like we always have, as a resource where the community can get those answers. Improving access to quality health care is what we are all about.”

In order to have coverage in January, interested consumers must enroll by Dec. 23. Knott said that, despite the initial challenges, the Affordable Care Act would be a historic benefit for about one million uninsured and underinsured people in Michigan.

“The Affordable Care Act is much more than just a web site,” Knott said. “The ACA brings unprecedented improvements in many aspects of health care including insurance reforms that make exclusions for pre-existing conditions a thing of the past. Women will no longer pay higher premiums than men. And all of the plans in the marketplace now must provide 10 essential benefits some of which were only available for the more generous coverage plans.”

Oakwood has also dedicated a web page to the Affordable Care Act that includes, among other information, a subsidy calculator consumers can use to determine how much assistance they qualify for.