Cass County residents in the market for health insurance gained options for navigating the healthcare system last week after Affiliated Service Providers of Indiana Inc. (ASPIN) received $1.6 million in grant funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
ASPIN is a nonprofit behavioral health provider that also provides education to Indiana residents. It serves as a navigation system that helps people enroll for insurance through Medicaid, the Health Insurance Marketplace, and the Children's Health Insurance Program.
"Some people haven't had insurance," ASPIN Senior Project Director Julia Holloway said. "We want to make sure they know how to use it. We stay in touch with them four times a year after they are enrolled."
According to data from the US Census Bureau, 9% of Hoosiers under the age of 65 had no health insurance in 2021. In Cass County, the number of uninsured residents rose to 12%.
J. Michael McWilliams, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, wrote that people who are uninsured have less access to medical care, receive poorer quality of care than people who are insured and have "worse health outcomes than insured adults" in his study 'Health consequences of uninsurance among adults in the United States: Recent evidence and implications.'
Brittney Isley, ASPIN coordinator of administration services and data analyst, said anyone can contact ASPIN for assistance. She added that people's options often depend on their income level.
The grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services comes as open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace draws near in Indiana. The enrollment period for 2023 begins on Nov. 1, 2022, and ends on Jan. 15, 2023.
ASPIN has been a navigation organization for health insurance since 2013. It has received over 13,800 calls and aided over 45,700 people enroll in health insurance in Indiana. All of the organization's services are free.
Navigation organizations like ASPIN help people fill out applications to determine eligibility, enroll in insurance coverage and apply for programs to help with the cost if available.
An ASPIN press release said the organization will direct outreach efforts this year to racial and ethnic minority populations, the LGBTQ+ community, rural populations, refugees and immigrants, low-income families, pregnant women, new mothers, American Indians, Alaska Natives, veterans, people who lack transportation, internet access, or have language barriers, and small business owners.
Holloway added that the recent Inflation Reduction Act will help many Indiana residents save up to $800 on insurance purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace, making it more affordable for most people.
"Navigators operate year-round to increase awareness among the remaining uninsured about the coverage options like Medicaid, HIP and CHIP, helping consumers find affordable coverage that meets their needs, and assisting consumers beyond the enrollment process to ensure they're equipped with the tools and resources needed to utilize and maintain their health coverage all year," the press release stated.
Holloway said ASPIN representatives can talk to people over the phone or set up online meetings to discuss insurance options. She added that the organization's social media pages also show educational events.
Additionally, the organization's website has a calendar to show when representatives will be at various community events throughout the state. ASPIN will be in Wabash on Oct. 4 and in Kokomo on Oct. 10 to discuss insurance coverage with anyone who is interested.
"We're glad to help out as people explore their healthcare options and consider (enrolling for insurance)," Holloway said.