Groups Getting Word to Ohioans That Federal Insurance Marketplace Is Open

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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Health-care groups throughout the Buckeye State are spreading the word about an unexpected opportunity to sign up for coverage on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace. An extra time period for enrollment was added by the Biden administration.

HealthSource of Ohio is offering free enrollment assistance to Ohioans in eight counties, including two in Appalachia. Becky McMullen, HealthSource's director of outreach and enrollment, said there's been a greater need for health coverage since the start of the pandemic.

"We have come across people that didn't realize that there is another enrollment period," she said. "We're interested in getting out the information about affordability; nine in 10 qualify for financial help with their plans. Three in four can find a plan for $50 a month or less."

In 10 Ohio counties, there are opportunities - depending on a person's income - to find a plan that costs nothing. Enrollment runs through May 15. Plans can be viewed online at healthcare.gov. McMullen said that's where Ohioans also can connect with personal enrollment help. HealthSource and other community agencies are giving application assistance over the phone.

"We're not there to judge," she said. "We're there to help them from the beginning to the end, to assist them in learning about coverage - what coverage is available, how they use their coverage and, then, where they can use it."

McMullen said counselors screen for Medicaid eligibility and can assist with applications for other types of support if needed.

"I work with some tremendous people that you never meet but yet, you have this relationship that you've created over the phone," she said. "And people come to us very vulnerable. Sometimes, they'll come back around and they'll tell us, 'Hey, thanks for what you did. You've changed my life.'"

According to census data, 7.7% of people in Appalachian Ohio did not have health insurance between 2014 and 2018, compared with 6.2% for non-Appalachian areas.
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