HOLE TOPS IN WYOMING IN FED HEALTH SIGN-UPS

Nearly 1,600 Jackson residents signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace and the website HealthCare.govduring the last enrollment period, from October 2013 to April 2014.

That means about 7 percent of the population of the town of Jackson was able to get coverage under the federal program, which is a part of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

A total of 985 people with 83001 ZIP codes received coverage through the marketplace, which is the highest number of any ZIP code in the state.

When added to totals from two other valley ZIP codes — 83002 and 83014 — health insurance sign-ups in the valley appear to have surged to a relatively high proportion of the overall population.

The number could be even higher. Statistics weren’t included for ZIP codes with less than 50 sign-ups. Several other unaccounted-for ZIP codes in Teton County, such as 83012, which includes Moose, could boost the total.

St. John’s Medical Center Chief Executive Lou Hochheiser believes the findings to be good news.

“I think it’s very significant,” Hochheiser said. “Those are people who benefited from being able to sign up.”

Through the marketplace, people who earn between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty line were able to apply for subsidies that, in many cases, drastically reduced the cost of monthly insurance premiums.

It is difficult to determine the exact significance of the most recent statistics, which were released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

While many in Teton County were able to sign up, many also failed to jump on the opportunity.

“A lot of people did sign up through efforts of the private agencies in town, brokers, as well as the efforts put on on behalf of the hospital,” said Dawn Sheue, president and principal agent of Summit Insurance Services. “However we still have a number of people who are still winging it, so to speak.”

Twenty-two percent of Teton County’s population was estimated to be without health insurance last year, a percentage that equates to about 4,760 people.

Teton County went for it

The data released last week doesn’t reveal how many of the people insured through the marketplace were previously uninsured, so it is difficult to say how much of a bite the marketplace took out of the county’s uninsured population. It also doesn’t specify how many people qualified for subsidies.

But when compared with statewide information it appears Teton County residents got the message about the marketplace more clearly than other Wyomingites.

Just 11,970 Wyoming residents, or 2 percent of the state population, signed up through the marketplace. About 35,000 uninsured Wyomingites were eligible for subsidies through the marketplace, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Under the health care reform law, people must sign up for insurance during the annual open enrollment period. The next one begins Nov. 15 and lasts until Feb. 15.

To apply for coverage through the federal marketplace, people can visit with an insurance agent, go to HealthCare.gov or meet with a volunteer from Teton County Library or St. John’s Medical Center.

During the last enrollment period the hospital and the library trained volunteers to help people sign up for insurance. Hochheiser said the “community-wide effort” probably helped encourage more people to get coverage through the federal site.

“I think it’s great that we got people to sign up,” Hochheiser said. “I think the library and us, the job we did to help people sign up, that’s the fruit of that happening.”

The hospital and the library plan to do the same programs again.

A big sign-up effort

During the last enrollment period the organizations were able to have volunteers available three nights a week and Saturday mornings.

The library’s research team supervisor, Kurt Plagge, was one of the volunteers who helped people enroll. While there aren’t statistics yet on how many people qualified for subsidies, Plagge said most of the people he worked with did.

He also noted that many didn’t make enough to qualify for subsidies, which is a paradox brought on by the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid coverage to poor, single adults.

“It was disheartening to see how many people fell into the loophole because we didn’t expand Medicaid,” Plagge said.

Under the premise of Obamacare any person making less than the federal poverty rate, about $11,500, was supposed to be covered by Medicaid expansion in the state.

But Gov. Matt Mead and state lawmakers have refused to broaden coverage to include low-income adults. The plan with the Affordable Care Act was for those people to have Medicaid coverage. Those people are said to be falling in the “coverage gap.”

There are still affordable insurance options for those who earn too much to qualify for a subsidy, Sheue said.

“It’s important that people stop being afraid and start being informed enough to make an educated decision,” Sheue said. “There’s a plan out there for just about everybody. Subsidy or not, we can figure something out.”

 

Ben Graham | (2014, Wednesday September 24). Hole tops in Wyoming in fed health sign-ups. Retrieved from http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/news/health/hole-tops-in-wyoming-in-fed-health-sign-ups/article_ad262686-c6a7-5582-84d3-3454e5290efc.html

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