Health Signups

Less than two weeks remain in the open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplaces, and slots in navigator services offered in Teton County — which can help you lower the overall cost of insurance — are going fast.

“We have seen a marked increase this year” in the use of navigator services, said Julia Heemstra, wellness director at St. John’s Medical Center.

“Appointments are filling up far more quickly than before,” she said.

Heemstra runs the hospital’s navigation services, in which volunteers and staff answer patient questions, help them understand how HealthCare.gov and state marketplaces work and give advice on tax credits. She said they don’t make recommendations on individual plans but instead ensure patients have all the information to choose the plan that fits their budget and health needs.

Heemstra encouraged people to do their research and use the hospital’s free navigation services, because automatically enrolling may mean patients pay higher prices due to increased premiums.

“I’ve seen increases from $20 a month to close to $200,” she said. “It’s really important for people to take the time to review what they are being auto-enrolled into.”

Changes in income or in a plan’s offerings can influence price, so patients who auto-enroll risk losing out on tax credits or being enrolled in a more expensive plan. Heemstra said the hospital navigators, who offer appointments on weekdays as well as Tuesday evenings at Teton County Library, are booked through the first week of December.

Call the library front desk at 733-2164, ext. 1, to book a Tuesday appointment.

For appointments at the hospital call 739-7244 or 739-7500 for English speakers and 739-7554 for Spanish speakers.

Health care premiums and tax credits reset Jan. 1 for plans purchased on the marketplace.

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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