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posted: 5/15/2014 5:22 PM

VNA Health Care Navigators provide assistance during and after Health Insurance Open Enrollment

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By Amy Downing

In the fall of 2013, VNA Health Care was awarded $1.2 million in grants to hire and train approximately 50 Navigators to enroll individuals in qualified health plans and Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act benefits.

VNA Navigators were also charged with helping educate the public about and provide fair and impartial information concerning Medicaid eligibility and qualified health plans (QHPs) available through the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace, premium tax credits, and cost-sharing reduction payments.

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After the open enrollment period ended on March 31, 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released numbers for the six-month open enrollment period that showed more than half a million people in Illinois obtained health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

"It has been very exciting to participate in this national effort to help people gain access to health care coverage for themselves and their loved ones," said Linnea Windel, president/CEO of VNA Health Care.

VNA Health Care's Navigators made more than 32,000 contacts with consumers during open enrollment, resulting in more than 8,500 enrollment applications to the Marketplace and Medicaid.

"This initial open enrollment period proved that people throughout Illinois recognize the importance of health care coverage and are willing to take action to obtain coverage," said Cheryl O'Donoghue, vice president of human resources and marketing at VNA Health Care. "Going forward our goal is to continue to simplify the process and help as many individuals as possible obtain and maintain health insurance coverage."

VNA's Navigators continue to enroll consumers in Medicaid which is open for enrollment year-round, and remain focused on outreach efforts to help those who gained coverage stay covered and use their benefits to stay healthy.

During this closed enrollment period for the Marketplace, the Navigators continue to provide enrollment assistance to those who may become eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP). SEPs are available to people who get married, have a baby, move to a new community, lose their job that provided their health coverage, and other special circumstances.

The next open enrollment period for the Illinois Marketplace will begin on Nov. 15, 2014, and run through Feb. 15, 2015.

VNA Health Care experienced a surge of activity during the final week of enrollment in March, completing more applications per Navigator than all other Illinois grantees during this time period.

The community-focused nonprofit held over 40 community enrollment events during that last week, leading up to a final "Get Covered" event at Prisco Community Center on March 28 as a stop on the Get Covered Illinois "Road 2 Coverage" statewide RV tour.

During the final open enrollment weekend, VNA navigators worked with consumers late into the evening hours, with many navigators working until midnight.

The work of VNA and its Navigator team was the lead story on Channel 5's (NBC-Chicago) 5 p.m. news broadcast by health reporter Nasita Kwan. The story was featured on the last day of open enrollment, March 31, 2014. The video clip is available to view at www.vnahealth.com/news.cfm.

VNA Navigators are still available to assist consumers. VNA Health Care urges those who believe they may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period or may be eligible for Medicaid to take advantage of the assistance that is still being offered via the web, over the phone and in-person. For more information, contact VNA at (630) 482-8130 or visit www.vnahealth.com/affordablecare.cfm.

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