Specialist hired to educate on health care reforms
by Anna Oakes
High Country Community Health has hired Eric Schneider as an outreach and eligibility specialist who will help the public understand the Affordable Care Act and enroll in insurance plans through North Carolina's new Health Insurance Marketplace.
Funding for the new hire at High Country Community Health -- a new federally qualified health center with sliding fee scale clinics in Watauga and Avery -- is provided by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, the same agency that funds the clinic.
HRSA awarded grants to 1,149 health centers across the nation to aid enrolling the uninsured in new health plans.
Bryan Belcher, chief information officer for High Country Community Health, said a part-time position will also begin in Avery County starting Oct. 1.
"We are excited about having the outreach and eligibility positions and helping people navigate the barriers to health care," Belcher said.
Three companies intend to sell plans to the state's consumers through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and open enrollment takes place Oct. 1 through March 31, 2014.
Persons who enroll in an insurance plan through the exchange are eligible for a federal tax credit if their incomes are between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. People who qualify can take the tax credit in the form of advance payments, with the subsidy sent directly to the insurance company and applied to monthly premium payments.
"Watauga, Avery and the surrounding areas are among the most uninsured in North Carolina," Schneider said. "The goal is to dispel misconceptions and put people in positions where they can make the best possible decisions regarding their health. Ultimately, we want to see the uninsured rate decline and to see a generally healthier and happier population."
Schneider said he will work with families and individuals one-on-one to help them understand new health care laws and make informed decisions.
He is also available to give presentations at libraries, community centers, civic meetings and other venues.
Presentations already scheduled include talks at the Watauga County Public Library at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, and at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
For more information, call Schneider at (828) 773-7297.