BELOIT - With open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) starting Nov. 1, representatives with Beloit Area Community Health Center are encouraging people to set up an appointment to explore their health insurance options for 2019.
Beloit Area Community Health Center, 74 Eclipse Boulevard, Beloit, offers a ACA health insurance enrollment plan at no cost which can be used by anyone in the Stateline Area, including those south of the border. The four insurers to participate in ACA in Rock County are Quartz, Dean, Mercy and Group Health Cooperative.
Social worker Mollie Gill and Marketing and Enrollment Coordinator Ana Montoya, who are also certified application counselors, met with the Beloit Daily News on Thursday to provide updates on the changes to the ACA effective Jan. 1, 2019.
The two women attended the Covering Wisconsin conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin, on Tuesday and Wednesday, where they presented and learned the latest news on ACA changes.
They explained how ACA offers minimal essential benefits for healthcare. All plans in ACA cover mental health, maternity, preventative care and children's immunizations as well as well child check-ups.
Appointments approved under the plan don't require any co-pay, and the ACA is open to anyone without insurance.
Eighty five percent of marketplace enrollees qualify for a tax credit which can help offset the monthly premium. Montoya said the average cost is $106 per month per person in Wisconsin.
In January 2019, the penalty for not enrolling if one doesn't have insurance has gone to zero. Although the penalty has gone away, they don't anticipate it will be a deterrent from people using ACA.
"They've seen the value it brings in keeping them and their families healthy," Montoya added.
Unlike traditional private insurance, ACA cannot discriminate against persons with pre-existing conditions and there is no cap on the amount a person would be covered for.
There's been an increase in new enrollees to ACA. In 2018, 79 percent of the consumers in Wisconsin were re-enrollees and the other 21 percent were new consumers.
However, they said Latinos are 26.8 percent less likely to be insured and African Americans are 17 percent more likely to be uninsured in the state of Wisconsin. There are still 45,000 children who are uninsured in the state.
Montoya and Gill said they also wanted to spread the word about enrollment because there have been funding cuts to outreach efforts in the past two years such as a decreased advertising budget.
They noted the window to enroll was changed to six weeks last year versus the typical eight week enrollment period.
Beloit Area Community Health Center currently offers one bilingual certified application counselor and will be adding two more by Nov. 1.
The women encourage people to come learn more about ACA from Beloit Area Community Health Center or the ACA website, www.healthcare.gov.
"We cannot steer you to pick a plan. It's ultimately up to the consumer what fits their pocket and healthcare needs," Montoya noted.
Although clinic hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Montoya and Gill strongly recommend calling to make an appointment at 608-361-0311. If people need a appointment on evenings or weekends they can call Rock County's local navigator Kathleen Duschene at 608-669-7440.
Montoya and Gill also reminded people to be watch for health insurance scams via the phone or phony websites appearing to be authentic.
"If they call you it's a red flag. We don't call you," Montoya said.
"If they are demanding payment without showing proof or an explanation of benefits, it could be a scam," Gill added.