Hospital offering health act help

By Emily Crowe

CNJ STAFF WRITER

ecrowe@cnjonline.com

Local residents having trouble signing up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act and expanded Medicaid can now turn to Plains Regional Medical Center for assistance.

PRMC has two state-certified application counselors who can help people navigate the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange, as well as three staff members who can help individuals apply for the state’s expanded Medicaid program known as Centennial Care.

Assistance is free.

Mary Marez, a financial counselor with Plains Regional, has been working with Medicaid users for 18 years and is available to help walk new users through the process of signing up for insurance and Medicaid.

According to Marez, users requesting assistance can either be helped over the phone or in person, depending on which avenue is easiest for the client.

With computer access, counselors have the ability to help clients with everything from minor questions to full assistance in enrolling in the programs.

New Mexico’s expanded Medicaid program will offer health care coverage to patients age 19 to 64 who meet income guidelines but previously did not qualify.

“Once a child would turn 19, they were automatically dropped,” said Marez. “With the doors being opened, there’s more opportunity for people to sign up. As long as they meet the income guidelines, they would be able to be put on Centennial Care.”

Assistance will always be available through the hospital’s counselors, Marez said, though the deadline to sign up for insurance through the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange is March.

Centennial Care will begin serving patients Jan. 1.

Residents looking for assistance can call 769-7142, and hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, according to a Presbyterian Healthcare Services press release.