glitches start to subside - December 22, 2013

Courtesy of the Post-Tribune

With the first deadline for signing up to health insurance approaching on Dec. 23, Northwest Indiana hospitals trying to encourage enrollment into health care insurance plans are seeing improved performance for the federal marketplace website,

While open enrollment will continue through March 31, customers who want coverage to begin on Jan. 1 must enroll by Dec. 23.

If customers sign up after the Dec. 23 deadline, the date their coverage takes effect will depend on when they complete their purchase. If it’s between the first and 15th of the month, coverage begins on the first day of the next month. If you sign up in the second half of the month (between the 16th through the end of the month), coverage begins at the beginning of the following month.

The health care site has continued to receive criticism for failing to handle high level of traffic, but local navigators are noticing some improvements.

Samuel Jelks Jr., a financial counselor at Methodist Hospitals, also serves as a navigator. The improvements have helped relieve a lot of frustrations for those who need coverage.

“When we first started signing people we ran into some glitches,” Jelks said, “but now we are able to get through an entire application through the website.”

Jelks added that now it’s easier to complete a full application, and even when the website experiences an error, it now advises users how to continue the process by calling a hotline.

Karen Schneider, regional director of patient financial services for Community Healthcare System, said improvements have helped, but there are still a number of questions people have.

Many hospitals are offering seminars to help answer questions.

Methodist Hospitals will host seminars on:

— Thursday, Jan. 9 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Northlake campus;

— Saturday, Jan. 25 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Southlake Campus;

— Wednesday, Feb. 19 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Midlake campus;

—Thursday, March 13 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Southlake campus;

— Saturday, March 22 from 8:30 to noon at the Northlake Campus.

Community Health Systems also has scheduled seminars:

—Monday, Jan. 13 from 6 to 7 p.m. at Community Hospital Fitness Pointe;

— Thursday, Jan. 16 at St. Mary Medical Center;

— Friday, Jan. 17 at St. Catherine Hospital.

Schneider suggests those interested call 219-836-3477 to register, but it is not required.

Jelks expects the number of enrollees will increase in January and February, as customers continue to learn more about the site and the new law.

Since a number of people attending seminars at Community hospitals are worried about potential penalties, Schneider believes the number of people trying to enroll will increase quickly in the last few weeks of December.

Besides the deadline to provide coverage Schneider also encourages those to take the time and study which plans they need. Some plans offered provide minimum or no out-of-network coverage, so the choice of hospitals or doctors is limited based on which company and plan you choose.

“We’ve had a few people get through the application process with us, then decided to take it home and think through their options before they pay for their plan,” Schneider said. “That’s a smart idea because you want to choose the best option for you.”