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Local health department to host open enrollment events before Dec. 23 deadline

Published: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 5:50 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 6:08 p.m. CDT

PRINCETON — The Bureau and Putnam County Health Department will host open enrollment events for the new health insurance plans Dec. 17-20 throughout Bureau and Putnam counties. The deadline to enroll is Dec. 23 for coverage on Jan. 1.

The open enrollment events are part of a statewide campaign, “Drive to Coverage,” to encourage Illinois residents to take an active role in learning about coverage options available, according to a press release issued by the Bureau and Putnam County Health Department.

Specially trained counselors, called “navigators,” will be on-site to assist, answer questions and work with residents to enroll for free.

Local navigator Dan Eiten said they can help residents understand what the new law means to them and go through the application process.

“The first enrollment deadline is approaching and we want to make sure that community members are aware of the resources that are available to them to help navigate the process,” he said. “So far, the enrollment locally has gone pretty well, but we continue to struggle with misinformation and outreach.”

Eiten said the health department is hopeful the state’s advertising push “will turn the tide and increase awareness about changes under the new law and what resources are available.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, thousands of Illinoisans who were previously unable to get insurance can now get covered. All plans included in the Marketplace cover recommended preventive services free of charge, include a cap on out-of-pocket costs, have no lifetime or yearly dollar limit on coverage and will not reflect anyone on the basis of pre-existing condition.

“Illinois residents will pay less than residents in many other states under the Health Marketplace and benefits may be even more affordable by subsidies offered by the federal government based on income,” the Bureau and Putnam Health Department press release states.

“Those wanting coverage have until the end of March to enroll and avoid a penalty. Dec. 23 is the deadline to have coverage begin as early as Jan. 1,” Eiten said.

Ways for Illinois residents to enroll include, visiting GetCoveredIllinois.gov, calling the Get Covered Illinois help desk at 866-311-1119 or scheduling an appointment with a local navigator for free.

Recent changes will allow some residents who were previously told their health insurance plans would be cancelled by private insurance companies (because they failed to meet a higher level of coverage required by the Affordable Care Act) to renew their existing coverage. Insurance companies will reach out to residents to inform them about their options, according to the health department press release.

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Bureau and Putnam County Health Department open enrollment events:
• Dec. 17-19 — 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bureau and Putnam County Health Department in Princeton.
• Dec. 18 — 8 a.m. to noon and 4 to 6 p.m. at the Western Bureau County Food Pantry in Sheffield.
• Dec. 18 — 1 to 3 p.m. at the Neponset Public Library.
• Dec. 20 — 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Bureau and Putnam County Health Department in Princeton.

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