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Published in CenterView on September 23, 2013

CMMS grant funds health insurance enrollment program at UMMC

By Jack Mazurak

Specially trained University of Mississippi Medical Center employees will help explain options and sign up uninsured patients for the state Health Insurance Marketplace beginning Oct. 1.

Under the U.S. Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, people who earn between 138-400 percent of the federal poverty level can purchase reduced-cost health insurance.

“This helps move Mississippi toward a healthier future,” said Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs. “As a population, Mississippians have the poorest health of anyone in the country. Part of the solution is to find ways to get them health insurance.”

In August, UMMC received an $832,000 grant from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to run a navigator program for Medical Center patients. Navigators explain and help patients choose the best-fitting private-company insurance policy from an insurance marketplace.


Katrina Reynolds
Katrina Reynolds

“The Medical Center sees patients from all 82 counties in Mississippi,” said Katrina Reynolds, chief of the office of revenue cycle management. “Since we operate so many unique services for the state, treat the most complex cases and see such a large percentage of Mississippi’s uninsured population, it makes sense for us to run a navigator program.”

The grant paid for training 36 Medical Center benefits coordinators and financial counselors as Health Insurance Marketplace navigators. The funding also covers computer hardware and software, a handful of new, yearlong hires and a patient outreach and communications campaign.

Rather than going door-to-door throughout Mississippi, UMMC navigators will initially meet with patients from all over the state who come to the Medical Center for care. Later, administrators plan to add more outreach efforts.

Approximately 220 patients who may qualify for the marketplace come through UMMC’s doors each day. Additionally, approximately 3,000 current and former patients received mailed invitations to group meetings where they can learn about their options and sign up for insurance plans.

“We’re already doing this to a large degree and have been for years,” said Chad Feldman, director of revenue cycle management. “Our teams of counselors meet every day with patients to discuss insurance options and payment plans.

“The navigator training gives them one more tool in their belts they can use to help patients.”

Those options now include UMMC’s Financial Assistance Program, Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP.

“By adding the navigator function to an already established and centralized model at UMMC, we will make efficient use of the taxpayer-funded grant while reaching many of the state’s uninsured patients and families,” Feldman said.

With affordable insurance, people can get care early or even seek preventive care in their local communities. That may help patients keep chronic conditions in check and reduce expensive visits to emergency rooms, transfers to acute-care centers and multiple days in hospitals.

The state’s federally run Health Insurance Marketplace opens Oct. 1 with plans taking effect Jan. 1, 2014. For more information on UMMC navigators, visit UMMChealth.com/HealthPlan; for information about the marketplace and to sign up directly, visit Healthcare.gov.

PREPARE TO APPLY

To enroll in a health insurance plan, be sure to provide:
  •  Social Security Numbers (or document numbers for legal immigrants)
  •  Birth dates
  •  Pay stubs, W-2 forms, or “Wage and Tax Statements”
  •  Policy numbers for any current health insurance
  •  Information about any health insurance available from employers