By TRAVIS MORSE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — MT. VERNON — The Jefferson County Health Department Thursday hosted a day-long open house to educate the public on the Affordable Care Act and how to sign up for insurance through the new Health Marketplace.
Jennifer Hails, a family case manager for the department, was available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. that day to field questions from the public.
She said keeping local residents informed about the new law fits in well with the health department's overall mission.
“Getting people health coverage is very important,” Hails said. “I think the main thing is just for people not to be intimidated or scared to ask the questions.”
In addition to providing information, Hails was also on hand to help residents sign up for insurance, which can be done online at GetCoveredIllinois.gov, by phone or with a paper application.
Much has been made recently about delays associated with the new Health Marketplace website. Hails said it won't be until around Thanksgiving that the site is fully operational.
Even so, the public can still sign up on the site now and get as far as they can in the process, Hails said.
“Your information is still going to be saved,” Hails said.
Rainy weather did hurt attendance at Thursday's open house. By early afternoon, Hails said about 10 people had stopped by to ask questions.
The main concerns people seem to have, she said, are related to the cost of health insurance and how to go about signing up.
Applying online is essentially a four step process that involves setting up an account, filling out an online application, comparing your options and enrolling.
Each health insurance plan differs in terms of coverage and there are four plan levels — bronze, silver, gold and platinum.
“We're just trying to get the word out there that if someone needs insurance, the Affordable Care Act might be a way for them to go as an option,” said Judy McLaughlin, a health educator for the health department.
The health department is also taking part in the “Cover Your Community” day of action, a statewide effort to educate the public on health insurance.
As part of this program, the department will have an informational booth set up at Mt. Vernon Market Days from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday at 205 S. Seventh St.
At the booth, residents can get information on the types of coverage offered, how to get coverage, plan costs and more.
In addition, trained counselors known as “Navigators” will be on hand to provide assistance.
For more information, call the health department at 244-7134. You can also visit www.jeffcohealth.blogspot.com or www.GetCoveredIllinois.gov.