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Forums will assist local residents in enrolling in Obamacare

WILLMAR — A pair of forums, one for the public and one for area nonprofits and their staff, will be held next week on the impact of the Affordable Care Act and the new MNsure health insurance exchange.

The two forums, hosted by Heartland Community Action Agency, are part of a broader outreach effort to help the uninsured enroll in health care coverage.

Both events will take place at the Evangelical Free Church of Willmar.

The forum for the community is on Tuesday and consists of two presentations, one at 5:30 p.m. on “Affordable Care Act 101 and Bridge to Benefits,” and the second one at 7 p.m. on “Tools for Enrollment.”

The forum for community nonprofits is designed to help staff understand the changes taking place in health care and prepare them to assist the clients they serve.

It will be held Wednesday, starting at 9 a.m. with a presentation on the Affordable Care Act and the Bridge to Benefits screening tool for determining eligibility for various types of health care coverage. A second presentation at 10:30 a.m. will provide information and training on helping clients enroll.

Guest speakers at both sessions are Christina Wessel of the Minnesota Budget Project and Ralonda Mason of Mid-Minnesota Legal Aid.

Many questions surround the Affordable Care Act and the health insurance exchange, said Jonathan Marchand, health care enrollment coordinator for Heartland Community Action Agency.

The two forums are being held to provide information to help people better understand how to navigate the changes taking place, Marchand said. “It’s really meant to provide a question-and-answer session for people in the community at large and tailored to service providers as well.”

Heartland Community Action Agency is working with a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota to conduct outreach that identifies the uninsured and steers them toward coverage for which they may be eligible.

Heartland, along with nearly half a dozen other community action agencies in west central and southwestern Minnesota, also is the recipient of a MNsure grant to provide an infrastructure, support and outreach aimed at getting eligible individuals to enroll in health care coverage through the exchange.

One of the goals is to create a navigator program through the community action agencies to field questions and guide enrollees through the process of determining their eligibility, finding a health plan on the exchange and signing up, Marchand said.

The MNsure exchange allows Minnesotans to shop for and buy health care coverage on the individual market. It also handles enrollment in Medicaid, which is being expanded in Minnesota under the Affordable Care Act, and MinnesotaCare, the state’s subsidized health insurance plan.

To RSVP for either of the Heartland Community Action Agency forums next week, email or call 320-235-0850, ext. 1117.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

(320) 235-1150