Posted: 8:24 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013
By Jeffrey Hess, Mississippi Public Broadcasting
In Mississippi, as in the 35 other states where healthcare.gov is running the enrollment show, it hasn’t been easy to sign up for the health law’s new insurance options. That’s a political problem for Democrats and a personal problem for the uninsured — but it’s a business problem for the companies that are trying to sell insurance plans in the new marketplace. One insurance company, Humana, is taking to the road to tackle the problem. Humana launched two specially equipped buses which have Internet access and agents on board who can enroll Mississippians in Affordable Care Act plans.
Standing beside one bus, Humana’s Stacey Carter says the goal is to generate grassroots interest in the marketplace.
“We will be at Wal-Marts. At some CVS’s in the first quarter. We will be at gas stations. So it is really kind of what that community felt would be a good place to visit. And we are working on some churches as well,” Carter said, during an interview in late November.
Carter says people are enrolling as the website improves. Humana is selling insurance plans throughout the state of Mississippi. In 36 counties, it is the only company selling plans. Though the company is selling in 13 other states, it is running the buses only in Mississippi.
Lonnie Ross, uninsured with a wife and three children, is finally getting a chance to look at the prices and plans he can purchase on the exchange. Ross says after 15 years of being without insurance, he was surprised at his options. “Oh, I was very impressed. I am kind of excited. So I hope it works out,” Ross says. “I hope it is what they say. I am right in my range $150 to $200 (a month).”
At a Humana bus stop in Natchez, Marie Dillon found out that she can qualify for insurance that will cover the medicine for her chronic lung condition, which she has skipped for the last year. “I am excited about it. I feel like I can afford health insurance now. At one time I couldn’t. Just based on my medical condition, they wanted over $500 a month to get medical insurance. But with this it is going to cost me anywhere between $25 and $50 bucks a month,” Dillon said.
But the access to plan information is also bringing startling news to some of the state’s poorest residents. They are being left without any help to purchase insurance because they make too little to qualify for subsidies to buy private insurance, and do not qualify for Medicaid because the state chose not to expand eligibility for the program.
While enrollment runs through the end of March, people must sign up by Dec. 23 to get plans that kick in at the start of the year.
Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.