We continue to welcome calls into the agency from people who are struggling to get a healthcare solutions individually or for their family. There's no question, healthcare these days is a challenge for nearly all of us.
I read an article this morning in THE TENNESSEAN that gives a little more information about what others face and the solutions that are out there. I thought it might interest you in seeing this article written by Holly Fletcher of THE TENNESSEAN with contributions from Kristi Nelson with the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Alan Hall sat with his laptop at the ready at Bellevue Public Library Sunday, prepared to help people navigate healthcare.gov as the first Health Insurance Marketplace deadline approaches this week.
The deadline to sign up with a guaranteed Jan. 1 coverage start date is Dec. 15. Navigators around the state like Hall are preparing for a busy week.
Listen to Hall speak for very long and it's a workshop on insurance, explaining co-insurance and the structure of plans' specialist and emergency room coverage, along with the random, odd personal fact - presumably the answer to a security question that won't be hard to remember.
Hall helped Melinda Hmielewski get enrolled in a Cigna plan that will start on Jan. 1. She's been paying $554 a month for Cobra through her former employer. Starting in 2017, however, her new premium will be zero.
She enrolled in a plan in about half an hour and thought the process, guided by Hall, was "just wonderful." She won't "have to pay a dime" in premiums and plans to use the plan as a bridge until she lands a new job and moves onto employer-sponsored coverage.
Hmielewski, referred to Hall by her sister Deborah Garrett, was his first appointment of the afternoon. Garrett has had an individual plan on the federally run exchange for two years.
While activity at enrollment events across the state is on par with last year, some groups expect to exceed the number of people they helped in 2015 by the end of the week.
The state saw fewer people enroll in the first month compared to the year before, but navigators said the loss of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee continues to be a concern for people in Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville who are weighing their options. Hall estimates that, for every one new enrollee he's helping, eight people pick a new insurer.
There were 55,434 people who picked a plan on the federally run Obamacare exchange across the state from Nov. 1 to Nov. 26, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In the first four weeks of enrollment in 2015, 62,922 Tennesseans selected a plan.
In Knoxville, the BCBST twist combined with the election of Donald Trump is shaping people's decisions, said Derrick Folsom, outreach coordinator for Cherokee Health Systems. Some people are forging ahead with picking new providers or insurers while others think the repeal-and-replace will come quickly in 2017 and are opting not to buy a plan.
Hmielewski expects Trump and his administration will take "what we've had in place for the last four years and make it better."
Folsom's seen people who say, "I'm going to get it one last time."
Plans purchased for next year will be in place throughout 2017. Trump and other Republicans in Washington, D.C., are talking about delaying the impacts of repeal for a couple of years.
"I just tell everybody that it's certainly going to be around this year," Hall said.
People who want a plan that starts at the beginning of 2017 shouldn't wait until the last minute to start enrolling, navigators said.
Last year, a surge of users in the days leading up to the 15th caused some shoppers to experience wait times online and on the phone, though the problems were not as widespread as the issues that plagued healthcare.gov in its first year. Federal officials wound up extending the deadline.
Open enrollment at healthcare.gov runs through Jan. 31.
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