If you’re needing a little more time to sign up for health insurance, consider it an early holiday gift: a one-week extension of the deadline to sign up for insurance. Individuals now have until December 23 to enroll in an insurance plan that begins coverage on the first of the new year.
Our organization works to provide primary health care to our community in and around Miles City, and we have been helping members of our community sign up for health insurance through the federal Marketplace. We know there has been confusion about the requirements of health care reform and frustration with the website. The good news, however, is that the site is working better and better every day, and is now working for more than 90 percent of users.
We are thankful this holiday season that these patients, friends and neighbors who have been unable to obtain health insurance, whether because of pre-existing conditions or cost, will now be able to get insurance and the peace of mind that comes with it.
For too long, many members of our community and state have not been able to access the care they needed. We envision a healthy, happy community where all members of our community can access the health care they need – and crucially, where they can access preventive care to help keep them healthy and well.
As a nation, we are taking significant steps towards that goal. Already, many protections of the Affordable Care Act have moved us in that direction, including those that prohibit insurance companies from denying care for kids with pre-existing conditions or canceling your insurance policy if you get sick, as well as requiring free preventive care and allowing young adults to remain on their parents’ plan. On January 1, more changes take effect, including:
• All new insurance plans will have to cover doctor visits, hospitalizations, maternity care, emergency room care and prescriptions.
• If you have a pre-existing condition, insurance plans cannot deny you coverage.
• All insurance plans will have to show the costs and what is covered in simple language with no fine print.
Now that insurance companies will be required to cover everyone who applies, all Americans will be required to have coverage. For those who don’t have health insurance through an employer or other means, you will likely be able to get financial help to pay for your insurance plan as long as you buy your insurance through the federal Marketplace (www.healthcare.gov  or 1-800-318-2596). If you qualify for Medicaid, or if your kids qualify for Healthy Montana Kids, the Marketplace will automatically connect you to those programs.
We know that for many in our community, buying health insurance may be intimidating or overwhelming. We are here to help. Certified application counselors are available in our center to help Montanans through the process of signing up for insurance via the Marketplace. Our counselors are trained, unbiased and do not work on commission. They can explain your options so you can make an informed decision about the best plan for you.
For assistance, call Megan Burton, the Outreach and Enrollment Specialist at Custer County Community Health Center. She can be reached at 234-8793, Monday through Friday, 8 am – 5 pm.
With the holiday season underway, we know how easy it can be for the month to fly by. Don’t wait – give yourself the gift of peace of mind by signing up for an insurance plan now. If you’d like help, call us today at to schedule your appointment.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Sharon Wilcox is the CEO of Custer County Community Health Center.