Monday Medical: Help with health insurance | SteamboatToday.com

Monday Medical: Help with health insurance

Susan Cunningham/For Steamboat Today

Monday Medical

Confused about your health insurance options? You don't have to be. For the fourth consecutive year, Yampa Valley Medical Center is offering free help through a series of open enrollment application assistance sessions.

The sessions, which will be held every Wednesday through the end of January, are especially useful for people signing up for a plan through Connect for Health Colorado, the state's health insurance marketplace.

"The application process can be confusing," said Gabe Richter, patient health benefit advisor at YVMC. "We are certified in the application process, so we can help people through each step of the application to make it as smooth as possible."

A number of people may have questions this year, as there are several changes to the 2017 health insurance plans offered through the marketplace in Northwest Colorado.

One of the biggest changes is that only one insurance provider will offer plans for the area: Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

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Anthem will offer 14 plans, all of which are HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) plans, not PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) plans. Rocky Mountain Health Plans and UnitedHealthcare will no longer offer individual plans in the area, but group plans with RMHP and UHC will still be available through employers.

Additionally, people can expect to pay more for their coverage.

"Premiums have gone up in our area," Richter said. "Across the state, the average increase is 21 percent. Our area is seeing increases of 25 percent on average."

But there is some good news: Premium tax credits have also increased, along with the cut off for qualifying for a tax credit.

"People who didn't qualify for a tax credit last year could qualify for it this year," Richter said. "I think people may be surprised when they see the increase in premiums. But once they complete the entire process, it may balance out a little more because of the tax credits."

All the changes mean it's especially important for people to understand their coverage options.

"We're really recommending people talk to a health insurance broker this year or come to one of our free open enrollment sessions," Richter said.

At the open enrollment sessions, local health insurance brokers will be available to help people understand the differences among the plans so they can choose one that best fits their needs.

"There are people who have certain prescriptions to fill or need to see certain doctors," Richter said. "Picking a plan that works for the individual is very important."

The sessions are open to everyone. People applying for a new plan should bring Social Security numbers for all family members, an estimate of 2017 income and a laptop, if possible.

Though there is still plenty of time to choose a health insurance plan for 2017, Richter recommends attending a session sooner rather than later. The sessions are busiest right before enrollment deadlines, though everyone who arrives before 7 p.m. will receive assistance – even if it means waiting in line.

"We've received many calls and have answered a lot of questions as the changes in plans have come out," Richter said. "So, the earlier you come, the better."

Open enrollment application assistance sessions will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through the end of January, with a final session Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Yampa Valley Medical Center. Sessions will also be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Dec. 15 and Jan. 12 at YampaCare Family Medicine in Craig.

Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at cunninghamsbc@gmail.com.

If you go

What: YVMC Get Covered Sessions: free application assistance for health insurance

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays during open enrollment

Where: Yampa Valley Medical Center

More information: Bring your own laptop, household income estimate for 2017, identification and Social Security number for each family member and current insurance policy information.