FORT KENT — The complexity of health insurance plans is intimidating even to the savviest consumer of healthcare services. The resources available for assistance can also be mind boggling for the consumer to select from, with the availability of online resources, call centers, fact sheets, brochures and helplines all offering consumer guidance. For individuals and families who are uninsured, navigating this complex system can be an overwhelming task to undertake.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), a comprehensive healthcare reform law enacted in 2010, makes affordable health insurance available to more people, providing consumers with subsidies that lower costs for households, using federal poverty levels to determine eligibility for benefits. The ACA created what is called a Health Insurance Marketplace which is a service to assist people shop for and enroll in affordable health insurance plans. It is also known as the Marketplace or exchange. Each year, there is an open enrollment period that begins on November 1 and ends on December 15. Open enrollment is a yearly period of time when people can enroll for coverage that begins on January 1 of the following year –consumers must apply during this period or face penalties, or worse, the inability to purchase insurance benefits. Coverage can also be changed by existing consumers during this period, in fact, it is highly recommended that this option be used by consumers to ensure the best plan and pricing.
According to the federal website, healthcare.gov, every health insurance plan in the Marketplace offers essential health benefits, including doctor visits, preventive care, hospitalization, prescriptions, and more. The site allows consumers to compare plans based on price, benefits, quality, and other features important to consider before making a choice. As an additional resource to local healthcare insurance consumers, Northern Maine Medical Center (NMMC) offers resources on its website at www.nmmc.org/health-insurance-marketplace. For one-on-one assistance, NMMC Certified Application Counselors, Michelle Kelly and Shawna Larrabee, joined by Rita Haskins of Fish River Rural Health, are offering one more public session to assist consumers. The second of two sessions offered is being held on November 20, 2017 from 9 AM to 4 PM at the NMMC Medical Office Building, upper level. Counselors will be available all day for walk-ins; those who prefer to make an appointment may do so by calling 207-834-1822.
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