Coalition kicks off health care information program

The Cover Arizona Coalition, comprised of more than 900 community and statewide organizations, began its informational campaign on Monday for those seeking health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Through the coalition, there are free in-person “enrollment assisters” across the state willing to help anyone searching for an insurance plan on the online marketplace, said Diane Brown, executive director of Arizona Public Interest Research Group, during the event held at Phoenix College.

Before you start searching for health insurance:

  • Familiarize yourself with health insurance terms
  • Compile your financial records, and medical history from the previous year
  • Shop around and find the best plan for you.
  • Know that enrollment is open from Nov. 1, 2015 to Jan. 31, 2016, but if you’re already enrolled and want to switch plans and be covered by the New Year, the deadline is Dec. 15.

    For more information or application assistance call toll free at 1-844-790-4946 or head to coverAZ.org/connector

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  • “By working with an enrollment assister, consumers can best navigate the various options they have to get covered,” she said.

    Dusty Denny, a political science student at Phoenix College, signed up for a plan in 2013 when the online marketplace was “really frustrating.” He didn’t know how to navigate it, and there was no assistance.

    “Health care can be scary sometimes and having someone there (to assist) is so easy. These people are there, they’re professionals and they know what they’re doing… it makes all the difference,” he said.

    Brown said to find the most suitable plan, consumers should review insurance terminology and know their rights. Even those who bought their plan in the past could find savings if they shop around the marketplace again this year, she said.

    Healthcare.gov, the federal government’s website that is the starting point for Arizonans who are shopping for insurance, has improved since its inaugural year, according to Melissa Stafford-Jones, regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She said the site is faster, has additional prompts and tools for easier navigation, and has a price comparison tool.

    “You can very easily windowshop this year, which is a great feature. You can quickly answer a couple of questions and go on and immediately see within a few minutes what your plan options are and how much they’ll cost you,” Stafford-Jones said.

    The cost calculator estimates an individual or family’s total costs of health insurance for the year, said Stafford-Jones. It estimates the price of everything from the monthly premium to the maximum-out-of pocket as well as the total yearly cost.

    “We want customers to be informed about the cost of the plan they’re buying,” Stafford-Jones said.

    More features are planned, she said, to customers look up doctors or medications to see which plans cover them.