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Hospital seeks to sign up residents for insurance

15,500 Clark County residents uninsured.

Community Mercy Health Partners is pushing to enroll residents in health insurance plans through new exchanges, one way it could improve care for patients.

The hospital last year saw more than 77,000 patients in its Springfield emergency department. Community Mercy also reported nearly $8 million in charity care in 2012, the latest year available.

So Community Mercy will host three enrollment workshops this week to provide residents with more information about the health-care law and selecting a plan.

The goal is to alleviate confusion, said Paul Hiltz, CEO for the Springfield Network of Community Mercy.

“We’re just trying to become more effective and work on quality outcomes while the system is transforming,” Hiltz said.

Insurers and businesses in Clark County also are seeking to stay on top of a series of modifications and delays in how the Affordable Care Act is implemented.

About 60,000 Ohio residents — and 3.3 million total in the U.S. — have selected a plan through federal or state health care marketplaces set up as part of the new health care law, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau showed about 15,500 residents in Clark County and about 4,500 residents in Champaign County didn’t have health insurance as recently as 2011.

CMHP hopes that by signing up more residents for coverage, more patients will seek preventative care and visit physicians as soon as a medical problem arises, Hiltz said.

Specific figures aren’t available, Hiltz said, but hospital staff members have noticed patients are increasingly waiting longer than they should to seek treatment. That includes patients who already have health insurance.

Ideally if more patients have health insurance, they will seek treatment earlier, have better results and won’t have to be readmitted as often.

Hiltz said he has not seen a projection of what those costs might be if more residents had health coverage, but said both the hospital and community would benefit if more residents had better access to health care.

The changes in health care laws are causing confusion among several area employers as well, said Mickey Sweeney, head of the Life and Benefits Division at Wallace and Turner Insurance Agency. The Springfield firm has helped businesses throughout Ohio navigate the changing health care laws.

The biggest challenges for businesses, Sweeney said, are rising costs for some employers and the frequent extensions and policy changes that can be confusing.

Larger companies also seem to be navigating the new laws better than smaller companies, Sweeney said.

The challenge for insurers is to identify trends and stay on top of changes in the law as much as possible, Sweeney said.

“That’s probably the key for right now is just to try to get a battle plan for what’s going forward and know it’s going to be changing,” she said. “Delivery of health care is going to be changing.”

Other area organizations are also seeking help to understand how the law will affect them moving forward. On Wednesday, the Building Industry Association of Clark County will host representatives from its medical provider to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act.

Many area contractors are already struggling and concerned with how the new law will affect their business, said Kent Sherry, executive director of the association.

Area homebuilders also have access to a program that allows them to create their own medical plan, Sherry said, but it is not clear how that will be affected under the new health care laws.

“They don’t make the mega-salaries some people think they do,” Sherry said of area contractors. “They want to know what bracket they will be in to afford medical insurance.”

More changes to federal law are likely on the way as new situations arise, Sweeney said.

“It’s like Ohio weather,” she said. “If you don’t like it, just wait. It’ll change.”

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