Everywhere you go these days, from the supermarket to the cell phone store, you face a dizzying array of choices.
Most of the time, you do your best to pick – and hope you got the best choice.
But what about choosing health insurance?
Right now, anyone can go online at www.healthcare.gov and shop for a health insurance plan for themselves and their family or small business. Many people qualify for financial help to make it easier to afford coverage. Some even qualify for free or low-cost coverage under the Healthy Michigan Plan.
And University of Michigan experts can help you choose the plan that’s right for you.
If you don’t get coverage, you’ll owe a penalty on your taxes next year – and that penalty is getting steeper by the year. So now’s the time to look at your coverage options.
For Doug Weaver and his team, the last few months — and especially the last week — have brought incredible excitement.
Instead of spending most of their time helping uninsured U-M patients navigate mazes of medical bills, they’ve helped hundreds of people sign up for health insurance that will cover their care. They’ve fielded nearly 3,000 inquiries since fall.
If you know someone who doesn’t have health insurance yet, Doug and his team can help. But act fast – by April 15 if possible!
Q: Why is April 15 so important?
Doug Weaver: Well, that’s the last day when we’ll be able to finish up applications for private insurance plan coverage, for folks who never finished their application before the March 31 deadline.
It’s also Tax Day. For people who might be eligible for Medicaid, filing a tax form showing your income from last year will really help speed your application along.
Aracelli Martinez (left) works with Social Service Technician Sarita Castro in the Practical Assistance Center.
Michigan was in the midst of its second economic downturn when Aracelli Martinez fell ill, recalling a terrible headache and itching all over her body. An area hospital referred her to the U-M Emergency Department, which led her to the Comprehensive Cancer Center. She received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow that help our bodies fight infection.
Aracelli signed on to participate in a clinical trial and responded well to treatment, despite the reality her disease could be aggressive and she might have as little as six months.
During that period, Aracelli lost her job. Then, her husband Miguel lost his job, too, and the van that came with his employment. Over the next year, with Aracelli still in treatment, the couple lost their home.
So, how did a couple without health insurance or employment in the midst of a recession pay for treatment?
Patient Financial Counselor Sue Thornton sees many patients newly diagnosed with cancer who are stressed about bills they cannot pay.
“Often people come to me before they’ve even had a chance to accept a heavy duty diagnosis,” Thornton says. “We screen patients for state assistance and, once we get through that criteria, for other programs like MSupport or Medicaid.”
According to Social Worker Katie Schneider, LLBSW, from the Guest Assistance Program, medication costs and transportation are key areas of stress for many cancer patients. For these practical matters, the Cancer Center’s Practical Assistance Center offers a range of services, like helping patients get wigs and figuring out which national and local programs offer aid for various expenses.
Judy Mackey was already reeling from the news that she would have to take Gleevec every day for the rest of her life to keep gastrointestinal cancer at bay. But the news only got worse. The pharmacist told her she had fallen into the notorious Medicare Part D doughnut hole, effectively leaving her without any prescription insurance. When Mackey learned that Gleevec costs $5,100 per month, she was devastated.
The Practical Assistance Center was able to help Judy Mackey afford her Gleevec.
The pharmacist recommended she go to the Practical Assistance Center, a new office on Level 1 of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, to find out whether she was eligible for financial assistance with her prescriptions. It was nearly 5 p.m. on a Friday, so Mackey didn’t think she’d get help that day. But she was surprised to find that social work assistant Maureen Marhofer, L.L.B.S.W., was not only willing to stay late to work through all of her questions, but was able to fax an application for financial assistance to Gleevec’s manufacturer, Novartis.
By Tuesday, Mackey had learned she was eligible for a free supply of Gleevec.
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