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As Health Care Deadline Nears, Mississippians Look for Help

By Evelina Burnett | Published 27 Mar 2014 09:03pm | comments

The deadline to sign up for health insurance plans on the federal exchange is this Monday. That's led many Mississippians who want to enroll to reach out for help. MPB’s Evelina Burnett attended a sign-up event Thursday on the Gulf Coast.

Lisa Jones tried to buy health insurance online, but was left with questions. That’s why she came to this insurance sign-up event in Gautier, hosted by Singing River Health System and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

"I had tried a month or so ago, but I was having problems with it and I was not understanding it real well," she says. She said today, "went real well. They explained everything, and they helped me enroll, and I'm all done."

Jones, who is 53, says she was able to sign up for a policy that she’s happy with and, at $123 a month, can afford.

"I haven't had insurance in about three years, so I am relieved to have insurance," she says. "It's scary not having insurance at my age."

About 40 people attended the sign-up event, which offered consultations with health care navigators.

Ginger Lay, Singing River’s director of managed care, says that personal touch is important.

"There's been so much publicity about how difficult it is to get on the site, and what you need, and how to navigate it, so having these types of one-on-one, up-close, personal appointments or meetings - I think the public feels more comfortable that way," she says.

Some 300,000 Mississippians are uninsured. An estimated 32,000 have signed up so far for insurance through the federal exchange.

Help is also available by phone through both the UMC Navigator program (601-815-4900 or 866-545-6842) and the federal marketplace (800-318-2596).

Local contacts can also be found at localhelp.healthcare.gov.

Yani Vega also attended the insurance sign-up event in Gautier. She said the event helped her understand her options.

"I'm actually going to go today and consult with my husband, because the prices really are reasonable, and of course we need health insurance," she says. "So I'm going to go home and sign up today."

Connor Reeves with the Navigator Initiative at UMMC, says these last few weeks have seen a surge in phone calls and interest.

"We've been very busy over the past couple of weeks, and if it's any indication, we'll be even busier over the next few days," he says.

The deadline to sign-up for insurance through the federal exchange is March 31. 

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