Tuesday, October 15, 2013

TOP STORY >> Signup for coverage going well

Leader senior staff writer

Two weeks into the private option, Affordable Care Act Medicaid expansion, 56,288 adults — including thousands in this area — have told the state’s Department of Human Services that they wish to enroll in the health-insurance program, according to DHS communications director Amy Webb.

Through Saturday, 1,509 applications were received through the state-run web portal, along with 1,119 telephone and paper applications.

Webb said that was in addition to the 53,660 current DHS clients who have been determined eligible and returned letters saying they wanted coverage. About one-tenth of those completed the enrollment process.

About 28 percent were notified that the traditional Medicaid program would better meet their “exceptional health-care needs,” Webb said.

The number of applications through the federally-facilitated marketplace hasn’t been provided to the state yet, she said. She said the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to have numbers sometime in November.

She said the government continues to work on its website, which was unprepared to handle the massive response to the health insurance opportunity.

“We knew those with the greatest medical needs would be most eager to enroll. Many have probably been without coverage for a while so I’m not surprised by the number,” DHS director John Selig said.

“This shows a need for us to continue our outreach efforts to younger and healthier people who are eligible for the program.”

Some agencies sponsoring in-person assisters or navigators are already at work helping enroll clients, while advisers at other agencies, like the Lonoke County Health Department, are not yet finished training and aren’t yet licensed, according to Milt Garris, director of the Lonoke County units.

“We’re still encouraging people to go to the website to do their own research,” Garris said. We’ve probably received about 100 calls each at the Cabot and Lonoke offices he said, and we’ve given out pone numbers so they can reach assisters.

The Lonoke Unit will have two assisters, the Cabot unit three. The Health Department is one several sponsoring agencies providing some sort of in-person assistors.

At Future Builders, which serves several counties including Lonoke and Pulaski, “We get calls every day,” said executive director Linder Conley. “People are curious and enthusiastic.

“We have people who are licensed and enrolling,” she said. “We’re up and rolling.”

“Currently, we have 114 licensed guides,” said Heather Haywood, a spokesman for Arkansas Health Connector, part of the state insurance department. So that’s 814 people who can help residents enroll.

In order to qualify for help paying the premiums, the clients must get the insurance through www.healthcare.gov, she said.