Health plans

Kansas Navigators Help People Find Health Plans in Obamacare Marketplace | KCUR 89.3

In 2014, a man in his 50s showed up at GraceMed Health Clinic in Wichita, asking about his options for getting health insurance.

He hadn’t cared about the cover before. The expense proved daunting for someone running their own business.

GraceMed employee Juven Nava recalls helping the man find coverage for a monthly premium of around $20 per Healthcare.gov.

“For so long, the only thing he thought he could sacrifice was health insurance,” Nava said.

And now he finally had it.

“I told him… ‘Use it. Have everything checked. You haven’t been to a doctor in ages.

So that’s exactly what the independent did. Tests revealed cancer and he began treatment.

The experiment stuck with Nava, which has helped people get subsidized health insurance every year since.

This year, more uninsured Kansans are eligible for financial assistance than before the pandemic. It’s part of coronavirus relief law that Congress passed in March.

On 260,000 Kansans do not have health insurance. the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated in May that about 70,000 uninsured Kansans are eligible for free health plans through Healthcare.gov for 2022. Tens of thousands more can get discounted premiums, sometimes as low as $10 a month .

Due to the temporary pandemic-related changes, some people who earn more than four times the poverty line will find they qualify for subsidies.

On Monday, the annual enrollment period began for people who want to purchase health insurance through Healthcare.gov for 2022.

Enrollment continues until January 15, but if you want your coverage to start on January 1, you must enroll no later than December 15.

How can you get help exploring your options?

Nava leads a team of bilingual experts at GraceMed – about half a dozen navigators who will sit with you for free in Wichita or Topeka, talk about your options and answer any questions you have about the lingo. ‘assurance.

Maximum disbursements? Coinsurance? Bronze, silver and gold plans? It’s their job to make sense to you.

The next few months promise to be busy for the GraceMed team. Their work is in demand.

“We were already getting calls a month ago…trying to meet our sailing schedules,” Nava said. “So this week is pretty busy.”

They meet people individually, in English or Spanish, and try to reach everyone. Sometimes they call on colleagues from other clinics to help them. They can also direct people to support in other languages.

If you want to speak to a navigator, Nava recommends finding an expert near you, as meeting in person is valuable.

You can do it on the GetCoveredKansas website, managed by a coalition of community clinics across Kansas that help people get insurance.

Or you can call the coalition at (866) 826-8375 to ask questions or schedule a meeting which could be in person, over the phone or via videoconference.

Some Kansans have more insurance plans to choose from this year.

Healthcare.gov is not the only place where you can buy insurance, but if you are eligible for subsidies, you can only get this financial assistance through the official market.

This year, seven companies are selling insurance in Kansans on Healthcare.gov, including local options like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas and national insurers like Cigna.

That’s more options than ever. It continues a dramatic trend over the last few years of increasing options:

  • 2019: Three insurers offered 23 plans across Kansas.
  • 2020: Five insurers offered 82 plans.
  • 2021: Six insurers offer 100 plans.
  • 2022: Seven insurers offer 123 formulas.

Still, the choices vary by county. Most rural counties have only three insurance companies to choose from. More urban areas have more options.
Celia Llopis-Jepsen reports on consumer health for the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @celia_LJ or email her at celia(at)kcur(dot)org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration between KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW, and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health, and how they relate to public policy.

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