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Health policies clarified at event

Rebecca Carpenter didn’t know what the best health insurance option was for her and her two children.

Coverage through her workplace didn’t seem to offer enough, while a higher tier was too costly. And the 24-year-old hadn’t yet tried to use the federal health insurance exchange at healthcare.gov.

But Carpenter had all her questions answered Monday evening during a town hall hosted at Mary Washington Hospital, where she received one-on-one help from a navigator, someone hired through federal government grants to help explain the health insurance reform law and coverage options to consumers.

“It was definitely a lot easier. They broke it down into steps,” said Carpenter, who lives in Spotsylvania County and works at a restaurant.

While Carpenter—whom dad Tim Carpenter describes as fiercely independent—didn’t think the final solution was perfect, she’s glad to have figured out coverage before the end of the year, when new plans go into effect. Her two children can get insurance through Medicaid, while she’ll remain on her father’s employer’s plan until she is 26.

“I would want to take care of my family rather than rely on the government,” she said after sitting down with one of the region’s two navigators.

One is Bill Botts, hired through the Virginia Poverty Law Center to cover Fredericksburg and 16 counties.

The other is Heather Trascapoulos, a navigator hired by Advanced Patient Advocacy, a private company, and stationed in Mary Washington Hospital.

She was stationed at the back of the room at MWH as other staff from Advanced Patient Advocacy, Botts and a representative from the Fredericksburg Department of Social Services presented information on how to enroll, who needs to, recent changes, and where to go with questions.

Not everyone needs to use the federal health insurance exchange. For example, those with policies through their employers, Medicare or Tricare do not need to.

Here are some other pieces of information shared by the navigators at Monday’s town hall, which began with an overview of basics about health insurance:

  • In order to get coverage effective Jan. 1, you must apply by Dec. 23. That’s a week later than the original deadline.
  • But open enrollment for the health insurance exchange will continue through March 31. In general, if you apply by the 15th of one month, your plan will go into effect the first of the next month.
  • Navigators spent the first few weeks of the enrollment period helping people with paper applications. But now that the federal government says healthcare.gov is running more smoothly, navigators recommend using the website instead. There are concerns paper applications won’t be processed before the deadline.
  • The federal website now allows you to look up insurance plans that would be available in the local area, without first going through the enrollment process—a function that was missing when the website first launched in October. Click on the appropriate blue circle on healthcare.gov.
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation website can help you find out if you’re eligible for subsidies to reduce your monthly premium. Click on the blue circle that says “See if I can get lower costs.”

The local APA navigator’s office is located near the Mary Washington Hospital atrium. The office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Navigator Heather Trascapoulos can be reached at 540/741-2541, Heather.Trascapoulos@mwhc.com or VANavigator4@apallc.com.

Botts’ office is at 500 Lafayette Blvd., Suite 140 in Fredericksburg. He can be reached at 540/374-5023 or at bill@enroll-virginia.com.

Katie Thisdell: 540/735-1975

kthisdell@freelancestar.com

 

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