Hospital to host event to help navigate Affordable Care Act.

December 1, 2015
Rhonda Hedlund is one of Spectrum's financial counselors.

Rhonda Hedlund is one of Spectrum’s financial counselors.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital will hold a free event to help people enroll for health care insurance coverage under the federal health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act. The event will be held Saturday, December 5, from 11 am to 3 pm in the hospital’s main lobby.

  Certified enrollment experts from Spectrum Health will be on hand to meet confidentially one-on-one and answer questions and assist people in signing up for one of the plans available through the Health Insurance Marketplace created under the federal legislation.  A District #10 Health Department expert will also be on hand to discuss options under the Healthy Michigan Medicaid expansion program.

Rhonda Hedlund, who is one of Spectrum’s financial counselor supervisors, said over 50 families took advantage of the event last year. It is open to anyone who has a question about purchasing health insurance through the ACA and is not limited to Spectrum patients.

“This is a confidential and one-on-one,” Hedlund said. “When they come to meet with us, we can help them by entering their information into an estimator tool that is pretty accurate at letting people know what to expect on tax credits and what their monthly premiums will be. Most people are quite surprised by how much money they can actually save by going through this.”

Hedlund said that the hospital’s financial counselors cannot tell marketplace shoppers which insurance package to sign up for but they can guide them through the process. This may mean walking them through the government’s website or talking to a person over the phone.

There are 12 providers in Michigan that participate in the ACA marketplace but some are limited to certain geographical regions. Three health insurance providers offer coverage through the marketplace in Mason County: Priority Health, Blue Care Network and Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“We would recommend anyone who does not have insurance or is currently enrolled in the marketplace to come to this program,” Hedlund said. “This is especially true for anyone whose insurance plan costs them more than 9.5% of their income. They would qualify for a tax credit that can save them a lot of money.”

Hedlund said often people are hesitant to participate in the ACA because they don’t know what the costs are, they don’t pay taxes or they don’t want the government to know vital information about them. She said everyone is required to have insurance and can face penalties from the IRS if they do not have insurance.

This is the best time of year to shop for insurance because it’s during the government’s open enrollment period, which is from November 1 through January 31. Hedlund said a lot of people don’t realize, though, that they can enroll at different times during the year through a special enrollment period.

“There are times when people may lose their jobs and find themselves in need of insurance,” she said. “Our counselors are trained to help them through that and really encourage people to take advantage of our free services.”

Spectrum’s role in the process is to encourage prevention and also to encourage good health, Hedlund said.

People who are unable to make Saturday’s event can still visit a Spectrum financial counselor anytime, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. They can call for an appointment at 231-845-5567.

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