News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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March 19, 2014

Insurance signup brings tears of joy to formerly uninsured

TERRE HAUTE — Having people cry happy tears of relief is one of the perks that Shannon Holloway-Sargent enjoys as she helps people navigate the insurance Marketplace.

“It’s just like when you go to a doctor, and you want to make people feel comfortable with everything,” she said in explaining how giving assistance with the sign-up process relieves some of the stress that people might experience with the process.

On Wednesday, Holloway-Sargent was the chief navigator signing up people for Marketplace insurance at the Wabash Valley Health Center, formerly St. Ann’s Clinic, where CEO Charlie Welker said that 33 people had already made appointments to start the process.

“This is awesome. Coming to an event and having appointments ready is great,” said Holloway-Sargent, who led a team of eight navigators trained and certified to provide assistance in an accurate and impartial manner to those enrolling in healthcare plans on the Marketplace.

The deadline for the open enrollment period is March 31.

Another enrollment and information event is planned for 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday at the health center, located in the 1400 block of Locust Street. (see sidebar at right) Anyone wanting to make an appointment for that day can call 812-231-7447.

“This is very important for our consumers and very important for our clinic,” Welker said of the enrollment event. “As a federally funded provider, we have an obligation to educate the community and help them get enrolled into the right program.”

For the two weeks before the event, every patient at the clinic was given material to educate them on their obligation and options in selecting health insurance, Welker said.

“For 17 years, everyone who has come here has been uninsured,” he said. “But now, we are in transition. Some will qualify for coverage and some may not. But we won’t know that until we go through the process with each of them.”

The clinic sees more than 2,000 patients per year, and Welker said the clinic is now hiring more staff to better prepare for an anticipated increase in patients.

The health center worked cooperatively on the Marketplace event with Hamilton Center, the Indiana Primary Health Care Association and Affiliated Service Providers of Indiana, or ASPIN.

The ASPIN navigators conduct public education activities to raise awareness about affordable coverage options and provide referrals to other consumer assistance resources when appropriate. A lot of the process is computer-based, Holloway-Sargent said, and many of the consumers seen at the clinic may not have online access to sign up for the program.

Each appointment is for an hour. Though it doesn’t actually take that long to go through the process, she said the navigators are trained not to rush consumers and to let them talk through the process and ask questions. If the consumer chooses not to make a decision by the close of the session, the person is encouraged to review the information and sign up at another time.

A person wanting to go through the process should bring information such as Social Security numbers for each person who will be signed up, birth dates and income information.

The plans and the associated costs vary.

For more information about next Wednesday’s enrollment, call 812-232-7447.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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