Lakeshore News Tonight

HealthLinc Navigates Uninsured Despite Website Woes

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November 13, 2013 — President Barack Obama’s plan to bring health care to everyone via the Internet is still causing trouble since the website went live October 1.

To date, fewer than 27,000 people have selected a plan through the federal exchange in the 36 states that do not have a state based exchange and depend on the federal government marketplace.

U.S. Senator Dan Coats weighed in stating that about 700 of those people are Hoosiers who managed to sign up on between October 1 and November 2.

HealthLinc Chief Executive Officer Beth Wrobel is one of millions of Americans still trying to get site access. The Federally Qualified Health Center operator and mother, who is anxious to tap into the healthcare marketplace for her son, said the focus needs to change.  She recalls the time back in the late 1960s when Medicare rolled out.  The program only handled Americans 65 years and older.  Like the Affordable Care Act today, there could have been problems, but only a handful of networks existed to report the results.

“You didn’t have CNN, Fox News and all these other news channels that gave you [news] that minute.  You didn’t have Twitter, you didn’t have Facebook to hear all of the bad things that happened back then.  I wish I could go back and see what really did happen when Medicare rolled out because I can’t believe that it all went really well,” Wrobel said.

One part of the website that works is its live chat fuinction, but Wroble said talking locally helps even more. HealthLinc has 13 healthcare navigators, including Wrobel, at its sites and its corporate office assisting with signups.

Wrobel said, “One of the bright notes, I think, has been using the phone.  Originally, when we went through training, they tried to get us not to be on the phone because it would take forever.  We’ve been able to sit with some of our patients and some of the community people and less than 20 minutes we’ve been able to get an application out of the phone.”

Another way Wrobel is reaching out to the 150,000 people she believes would qualify for a healthcare subsidy in Lake, Porter and La Porte Counties is to go straight to them.

She said, “At all our sites, for the next month, we have planned what we’re calling coffee talks where we will do a 10 or 15 minute presentation on the marketplace, what insurances are available and help them walk through a paper application.”

Some policies will come at no expense to the uninsured.

“It’s probably a high deductible. With all these plans preventative is free. I think that’s really important. People may have a high deductible, but they can start to get the preventative care that they need that we hope keeps them from getting ill,” Wrobel said.

Those planning to have insurance by the first of the year must sign up and pay by December 15.  Others have until the end of March 2014 to get insured before an individual mandate prompts the federal government to issue a penalty that Wrobel said will appear on 2015 income taxes.

HealthLinc Coffee Talks will continue Thursday, November 14 at 9:00 a.m. at the Valparaiso location on Sturdy Road.  Another opportunity to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and sign up will be Monday, November 25 at 9:30 a.m. at the Pastrick Library in East Chicago.  Another talk takes place at 1:30 p.m. at the Main Library in East Chicago.

By Renetta DuBose

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