By JACK WEATHERLY
Denise Woodcock had never seen a reason for her to have health insurance. After all, she said, “I hardly ever get sick.”
Then she had to go to an emergency room about a month ago.
That left her with a $13,000 medical bill – and a resolve to buy insurance.
“That kind of scared me,” she said.
She signed up with Humana Insurance on Saturday as part of the company’s effort to enroll people in the federal exchange, which offers subsidies for those qualify.
The third year of enrollment in the exchanges, which were established by the federal Affordable Care Act, started Nov. 1.
Woodcock qualified. She chose Humana’s Bronze Plan with a monthly premium of $20, a $500 annual deductible and 60 percent paid by the insurer. She said she may upgrade to the Silver Plan, whose monthly premium is $69 and pays 70 percent coverage.
She is a single mother, with three of her seven children still at home. The dependent children have coverage through the Childrens Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, which is administered by the Division of Medicaid and has no premiums or deductibles.
When she was younger, she received Medicaid insurance, and eventually she made too much money to qualify for Medicaid.
Mississippi leads the nation in that 95.4 percent of enrollees qualify for the subsidy, and on average get $351 a month as a premium tax credit, according to the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare.
Those who qualify for the income tax credit can take advance payments of it to lower their monthly premium payment, according to healthcare.gov.
Woodcock is a cook for Wayne’s Cafeteria at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security building at 1235 Echelon Place in Jackson. The cafeteria is not required to provide a group plan because it has fewer than 50 employees.
But everyone is required by the ACA to have coverage, or pay a penalty, which in 2016 will rise to 2.5 percent of income or $695 per adult and $345.50 per child, whichever is more.
Woodcock worked her way through the review process at Humana’s enrollment outreach Saturday at Northpark Mall. The insurer also conducted a signup at the Jackson Medical Mall.
For many people, the insurance exchange is a “blank slate,” said Todd Oglesby, Humana sales manager for metro Jackson.
Fifteen percent of Mississippi residents don’t have health insurance.
Humana will have two more days of signup, on Dec. 11 and 12, at Northpark and the Jackson Medical Mall, Oglesby said.
Humana is one of three insurers who offer insurance through the Mississippi exchange. The others are Ambetter of Magnolia and United Healthcare.
Efforts to get information from the other two insurance companies were unsuccessful.
Dec. 15 is the deadline for those who want coverage by Jan. 1. Those who sign up by Jan.15, will have coverage by the first of February and those who enroll by Jan. 31 will have coverage starting in March.