Hattiesburg health initiative helps with insurance enrollment

Hattiesburg health initiative helps with insurance enrollment

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Health insurance open enrollment starts Tuesday, and Mississippi Health Access Collaborative (MHAC) is helping eligible Mississippians receive healthcare coverage.

"We have navigators who can help the individuals create an application, go through the process and actually enroll," said Kristina Cole, a health access specialist with MHAC. "Individuals will complete the application similarly to how they complete their taxes, so everybody in the household will be listed on the application."

Cole said Mississippians need social security numbers for everyone in a household applying for coverage and a best estimate of yearly income, like a pay stub or W-2 form, to complete the application. Cole said individuals also must make a minimum income to apply. For a household of one, an individual must make at least $11,880 to apply for insurance.

"Really anybody who has some type of income could potentially qualify for coverage through the market place," Cole said. "Self-employed individuals, contract workers, people who may not have access to health coverage through their job, that would be key candidates for marketplace coverage."

Premium costs under the Affordable Care Act are increasing this year, and Cole said they often work with individuals to see if they qualify for programs to lower premium cost.

"One thing we do here at MHAC is help individuals understand their premiums," she said. "We help them understand their copays, deductibles, things like that. For individuals who qualify for a tax credit, their premiums will be lower. They'll get a break on their premiums, and those who qualify for a cost sharing reduction, so those who fall between 100 and 250 percent of the (federal poverty level) will qualify for a cost sharing reduction as well, which will lower their out of pocket cost. So it's going to lower things like their copays, deductibles, prescription prices, things like that."

Cole said more than enrollment, MHAC focuses on that kind of insurance education.

"We are tasked with providing individuals education on the whole scale, so we don't just sign people up for insurance," Cole said. "We explain to them what they're getting, make sure that they are making the best choice, the best decision for their family. So we go over premiums. We let people know that this is your monthly cost. I mean, you do have to pay a bill every month because now with the implementation of the ACA, a lot of people are getting health coverage for the first time. They don't realize that they have to pay a monthly bill, (that) this is an extra bill, that they have to meet copays or deductibles, that just because they have insurance, they still might have to pay some money out of pocket when they go to the doctor. So we provide a lot of education outside of enrollment. Our job is to provide education, make sure individuals know what they're getting, what they're paying for."

MHAC's main office at 301 W. Pine St. is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but Cole said it has enrollment sites at places like health departments throughout the 24 southern counties it serves. For more information, call the office at (601) 596-6859.