With the recent launch of the new federal health insurance website, Dane County officials are stepping up their efforts to help county residents navigate the new marketplace and reduce the number of county residents without insurance.
While Dane County has a relatively small percentage of the population that lacks health insurance, officials are offering support to anyone trying to take advantage of the new Health Insurance Marketplace, Jeff Golden, spokesperson for Public Health Madison and Dane County, said.
“Some people have said if we can get at least 50 percent of [uninsured citizens] into affordable healthcare, that’s a pretty fantastic breakthrough,” Golden said. “Even if that doesn’t add up to a huge number of people, it’s a totally under served population. So it’s a very exciting possibility that people who have never head health care before will have access to a normal health care policy.”
The Health Insurance Marketplace opened in October and will be open for enrollment until Dec. 15 for those who want coverage to begin by Jan. 1, 2014, according to a Public Health Madison and Dane County statement. The statement said the marketplace is for people without insurance coverage or those looking for a more affordable plan to shop for health insurance.
David Diercks, a spokesperson for Unity Health Insurance, said the county does not yet know how many people have enrolled in health care through the new market place. While several inquiries into enrollment numbers have been made, he said the data regarding the number of people enrolled will not be accurate until payment is collected.
“The government is committed to making the website work,” Dierks said. “So people should just be patient.”
However, Golden said the website has had a few initial startup problems and calling the number would be more reliable.
He said there is also some confusion within the county on what the marketplace actually is.
“Calling this a government health care program is not correct,” Golden said. “The government is facilitating access, creating policies for what these companies can and can’t do when they sell insurance. And people figure this out and say, ‘no preexisting conditions? You mean I can buy insurance if I have diabetes? Is that a terrible thing?’”
To sign up for the market, the statement said people will need to provide ID information for all family members, information about household income and information about insurance offered through your job or spouse’s job.
The statement offered two ways to inquire or sign up for coverage, either visiting the healthcare.gov website or calling the number for the marketplace.
The statement said along with signing up online or by phone, the community has a few locations where Certified Application Counselors are available in person to guide anyone who is interested through the process of signing up.
According to the statement, Access Community Health Center counselors are at the Dane County Job Center at 1819 Aberg Ave., Madison, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Public Health Madison and Dane County counselors are at public libraries, the statement said.