By Jenny Neyman
The clock is ticking on the open enrollment period to sign up for heath insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but navigating the acronym-laden options, deciphering plan benefits and the pressure of making the best decision for your health and your wallet can be a real headache. Peninsula Community Health Services is there to help.
Tina Minster is a health insurance “navigator” with PCHS, specializing in outreach and enrollment. Friday, she set up shop for three hours in the Soldotna Public Library, and had 20 people come visit with her, and takes her services much farther afield, as well.
“I host events, I do follow-up appointments, I go to people’s homes that may not be able to get out. I’ll go to coffee shops, I’ve been down to the beach while people are dip-netting,” she said. “I’ve been on the boat with people, fishing captains that are going to need help. I’ll take my pocket full of business cards, and wherever I go I’ll be standing in a grocery line, ‘Hey, do you need help understanding what your responsibilities are? Do you have insurance? Do you know anyone that needs insurance?’ I’m kind of outgoing, so that really helps a lot.”
She fields a lot of questions about Medicaid and Medicare and can walk people through the enrollment process online on healthcare.gov to see if they qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. If Minster can’t answer a question, she can refer to someone who can, such as a private insurance broker, Native health services or veterans health services.
Her last client of the day, Betty, and her husband are trying to figure out heath care coverage now that they’re retired. She’s covered under Indian Health Services, but isn’t sure how to integrate that with the Affordable Care Act — or “Obamacare” — while her husband is trying to decide how much coverage he needs under Medicare.
“Which way do you go? When can you get signed up? So we’re trying to get that in order, and he wants to be completely covered, like Medicare A, B and C and supplemental,” Betty said.
They want to take care of their health, but don’t want to spend any more than they have to.
“And then with me, I have Indian Heath Services, so have the exemption with that with Obamacare,” she said. “And I’m on Social Security. So you’re retired, this is what you get — you get Part A, and there’s certain things it covers, then Part B covers something else, but I want to know the advantages of why should I get Part B,” Betty said.
It gets pretty complicated.
“I don’t know which way to go,” she said. “And then, am I taking a chance if I travel? How do I get to them (IHS) if I need to go to a hospital? How do I check ahead? What if something happens to me? If I’m knocked out, does my husband call and say, ‘OK, you need to cover this?’”