Spencer Hospital Prepares for Shorter ACA Enrollment Period

posted on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 in General

Having healthcare insurance coverage enables patients to seek preventative wellness services, or to proactively schedule an appointment when a health concern first arises, in a more treatable stage.

In recent years, northwest Iowans who previously did not have insurance options have gained coverage through products available through the Affordable Care Act, including Iowa’s expanded Medicaid program. While ACA choices are fewer in Iowa due to market and program administration factors, local health officials continue to encourage individuals and families in need of coverage to explore their options.

“We encourage people to consider the importance of having adequate, affordable healthcare coverage,” said Bill Bumgarner, Spencer Hospital President. “Obtaining coverage through the ACA marketplace has become more challenging, yet there are options.  The hospital has a team of trained enrollment assisters who can help people explore their options.”

The enrollment period for the national ACA marketplace runs Nov. 1 through Dec. 15, 2017, which is six weeks less than last year’s enrollment period. Bumgarner says the shortened enrollment period, along with other recent governmental actions related to program administration, are troubling.

“The healthcare industry is concerned by recent actions by the federal government that have contributed to confusion related to the upcoming ACA open enrollment period,” he commented. “Health insurance companies have been forced to significantly increase premiums because they are uncertain if cost support payments that have been provided in prior years will be there.  Funding to promote enrollment nationally has been cut.  It's also been reported that the national ACA website will be taken off line for service on four of six Sundays, a historically busy time for enrollment activity.” 

Bumgarner continued, “These actions do not support a basic need to offer Americans access to reasonably affordable health insurance coverage.  Who among us, who are fortunate enough to have coverage to meet the needs of our families, would want that access be impacted by unnecessary barriers?”

Bumgarner said such barriers to coverage hurt rural hospitals like Spencer Hospital.  “Hospitals throughout Iowa provide care to people in need regardless of insurance status.  When people don't have access to insurance coverage, those costs are absorbed, and over time, can impact the extent to which hospitals can invest in enhanced services for the whole of the community,” he commented. 

“This should be a people issue, not a political issue,” Bumgarner stated. He praised bipartisan efforts of legislators such as Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Democratic Senator Patty Murray, who have teamed up to develop bipartisan legislation to support the needs Americans who rely on coverage through the ACA.

Bumgarner reiterated that Spencer Hospital, Avera Medical Group Spencer, and Abben Cancer Center have personnel trained to help people with the ACA enrollment process, or for those who qualify, enrollment in Medicaid.

He encouraged: “We’d like to help community members who need coverage to assess their options under the ACA.  Despite reports of increasing premium levels, we encourage contacting our enrollment assisters.  In some instances, coverage support subsidies increase along with premium levels.  Affordable options may still exist.  In addition, some people may be eligible for Medicaid coverage.”

Spencer Hospital’s financial planners can be reached at (712) 264-6259 or (712) 264-6128.