CHESTER — The end is nearing for the truncated open-enrollment period for the Illinois marketplace and representatives from the state are still hard at it, making stops throughout the region to spread the word in Southern Illinois.

Early in the enrollment period — which was shrunk from 12 weeks to just six this year — the state's Get Covered Illinois team committed to make it to all 102 counties in the state to help answer questions people may have about the ever-changing health care landscape. A representative was in Chester on Thursday, and others will be in Anna at the Stinson Memorial Library from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, as well as in Mound City at City Hall on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Karen Woods, director of Get Covered Illinois, said Thursday was her sixth county meeting. She said the get-the-word-out campaign has been really important this enrollment period.

“Enrollment nationally is down,” she said, adding that it had spiked initially before falling off.

She has taken a few Southern Illinois meetings and said attendance has been slow. She said she’s had at least a few visitors at each session with the exception of Waterloo. She couldn’t quite pinpoint what was driving the low turnout.

“I wish I knew,” she said, attributing some of it to the swirl of news and rumors being thrown at consumers this year. “Confusion and constant change from Washington,” she said has been one of the biggest challenges.

One theme this year has been getting what she described as “the young invincibles” to engage in the discussion about health care and ultimately sign up. She said some may not realize how quickly bills can pile up with just one medical event if that person is not insured.

“It can be really devastating if they have a medical crisis without insurance,” Woods said.

Jennifer Hammer, director of the Illinois Department of Insurance, said these onsite visits will be all about answering questions for consumers — customers won’t be able to enroll during the meeting, but should have the tools necessary to do so themselves after.

These county visits are not the only thing the IDI has done to make the most of this shortened enrollment period — Hammer said they have added about 230 extra phone hours, extending their hours to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Hammer said simply getting insurance is not the end goal — it is about getting the right coverage. Hammer said it is important that customers not passively enroll.

“No action is the worst action,” she said. Hammer wants to make sure customers are aware of how their plans might change.

“Keeping your plan does not mean that your premium will stay the same nor the benefits will stay the same,” Mahoney said.

“Cost should not be the only factor,” Hammer said, adding that her department is “encouraging people to shop around.”


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