Dunn County hires application counselor to help with ACA insurance marketplace

By LeAnn R. Ralph

MENOMONIE — Do you need help signing up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace?

Kyra Pickett of Colfax has been hired by Dunn County as a certified application counselor on a limited-term basis until April who will be available to help people one-on-one.

Pickett is working as the county’s certified application counselor out of the Dunn County Department of Health office at the Government Center on Wilson Avenue in Menomonie.

Appointments can be made Monday through Friday by calling 715-232-2388, said Wendy McDougall, director the Dunn County Public Health department.

Prior to meeting with Dunn County’s certified application counselor, people should gather the following information to bring with them: Social Security number; income information for every person in your family who needs health insurance coverage (pay stubs; W-2 forms; tax returns); policy numbers for any current insurance plans covering members of your household.

If you have access to a computer, you can also sign up by visiting www.healthcare.gov.

Julie Bruggenthies, the ACA Navigator through Workforce Resource for Pierce, St. Croix, Dunn and Pepin Counties, visited the Colfax Public Library on December 16.

Because of problems initially with the healthcare.gov website, people were told to fill out paper applications, but now that the website is working, people should not fill out paper applications, Bruggenthies said.

Single adults who are eligible for BadgerCare/Medicaid will have until April 1 to sign up, Bruggenthies said.

On April 1, 2014, changes will take effect in BadgerCare Plus that will include new income limits and one benefit plan.

As of April 1, non-pregnant adults with an income above 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level will no longer be eligible for BadgerCare.

Originally the changes were set to go into effect on January 1, but the deadline was changed to April 1 to give people more time to sign up through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

The monthly income limit for adults to be eligible for BadgerCare is $958 per month for one adult and $1,293 per month for two adults.

People who are enrolled in the Health Insurance Risk Sharing Plan (HIRSP) will have until February 1, Bruggenthies said.

The ACA Navigators typically work on group education and outreach about the ACA and the insurance exchanges, but they also do work with individuals, Bruggenthies noted.

Certified application counselors also are located at the hospitals in Baldwin and New Richmond, she said.

One problem with signing up online that no one had anticipated is that some rural areas only have dial-up Internet service available, Bruggenthies said.

For those who have dial-up or an older computer that does not work on the Internet very well, computers are available at any public library, at the Dunn County Health Department, at the Dunn County Job Center in Menomonie, at the Free Clinic of the Greater Menomonie Area and at the Stepping Stones Food Pantry in Menomonie.

People have until the end of December to pay their insurance premiums if they want coverage as of January 1, Bruggenthies said.

Bruggenthies urged people not to wait for their insurance company to contact them about premiums but to instead contact the insurance company so that their premiums are paid by January 1.

“If people wait until January to pay their premiums, they might think they have health insurance only to discover that they do not,” she said.

A total of ten percent of Dunn County’s population — 4,000 people — do not have health insurance, Bruggenthies said.

“The website is much easier to use now than it was at the beginning. It’s much more user friendly,” she said.

Bruggenthies can be reached at Workforce Resource in Menomonie at (715) 232-7380, extension 1415.