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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Health insurance advocates push last-minute enrollment

The deadline for marketplace enrollment is March 31.

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Mikala Compton/Graphic Designer

As the end-of-the-month deadline to enroll in the federal health insurance marketplace looms, some organizations are taking an active role in engaging purchasers.

The upcoming March 31 deadline was set when the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace opened up Jan. 1. But most Missourians without existing health insurance coverage still have yet to sign on for a plan, according to advocacy groups.

Outreach group Central Missouri Communication has held education and outreach events for about 1,000 Missourians. It has helped a smaller group, about 150 individuals, sign up for insurance in the marketplace.

Some groups, like national advocate group the Young Invincibles, have run the gamut in informing consumers: They’ve designed an app, they’ve sponsored improv events, and they’ve hosted concerts.

It’s all a part of the Healthy Young America project, which the group’s Midwest director Eve Rips said reaches out to 18-34 year olds to provide health care information. It’s a demographic, she said, that needs all the help it can get.

“The education level from young adults is often very low on these topics, and so trying to reach as many young adults out there at a really basic level has been a challenge,” Rips said. “We found that even in a state like Missouri, where Medicaid hasn’t been expanded, a surprisingly large number of young adults don’t realize that they qualify for Medicaid and that they’ve been able to get free coverage all along.”

Rips said the Young Invincibles’ information efforts provide a sort of “Insurance 101” to first-time purchasers and young adults in general. The organization covers a glossary of terms — premiums and deductibles are a common concern, Rips said — and gives young consumers a look into what their best options are in purchasing an insurance plan.

Rips emphasized outreach, which is where CMCA comes in. CMCA, a nonprofit funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health, provides eight counties, including Boone County, with information on and navigation of the new marketplace.

The group, community services supervisor Emily Young said, hires application counselors to look over consumers’ options and educate them on where they should go from their applications.

Finding coverage, Young said, has been hard for some.

“The ones who have qualified have gotten really good coverage at affordable costs.” Young said. “Unfortunately it’s the ones who either fall under that 100 percent, the Medicaid gap or ... the family glitch.”

The “family glitch,” she said, forces employees who would otherwise qualify for a tax credit with the program to go with their employers’ default health insurance plans, which would make them forfeit that credit.

But like Rips and the Young Invincibles, she stressed education.

“We are halfway through March, and the deadline is the (March 31),” Young said. “We’ve seen a lot of people who aren’t aware of the (ACA) that went into effect on (Jan. 1). They’re not aware of it. ... They’re not aware of (the) penalty.”

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