For Tooele County residents still concerned or confused about the Affordable Care Act, there is a glimmer of hope: Mountain West Medical Center will offer a free service to help residents navigate the new insurance system.
Starting Oct. 1, the hospital’s Eligibility Services Department will offer appointments with “certified application specialists” trained in all the up-to-date ins and outs of the Affordable Care Act.
Tooele residents, especially those who are currently uninsured, are invited to make an appointment to go over their options and eligibility. The specialists can also help residents review their individual health plan options, and even assist with the application process.
The federal health insurance mandate, also widely known as Obamacare, is currently slated to take effect in about six months.
Eligibility services is not new to Mountain West, but in the past the department typically dealt with current patients who did not have insurance. But the hospital now plans to open this service to all residents in light of the approaching Affordable Care Act mandate, which will penalize individuals 26 years of age and older if they are uninsured as of March 31 of next year, said Becky Trigg, director of marketing at Mountain West Medical Center.
“Our corporation wanted to be able to reach out to the community, and this was one service we felt we could provide,” she said.
Though the service is open to all, including those who already have insurance through their employers, Trigg said the department created the program with uninsured residents in mind.
Those who do not receive insurance from their employer may qualify for the state’s new Health Insurance Marketplace, which will include as many as 10 insurance companies and 99 different plans.
However, Trigg said the service could also benefit citizens with insurance who might face rate increases they aren’t sure they can afford.
“Until you meet with somebody to go over your options, don’t give up hope,” she said.
The department is already accepting appointments — though the first appointments will not take place until Oct. 1 — and is focused on getting the word out to populations that are most in need. Trigg said she hoped residents would reach out to neighbors, friends and family who would benefit from the service.
Language barriers should not keep families from taking advantage of the service. Eligibility services is able to translate from Spanish and several other languages. In some circumstances, Trigg said the hospital could make arrangements for group presentations as well.
While there are still many unanswered questions about the Affordable Care Act, Trigg said the hospital’s specialists are among the first to receive any new information. Mountain West simply felt like making that information as widely available as possible to help the community through the upcoming transition.
“We don’t make the rules, we just follow them, and we want to be of service as we all go through this together,” she said.