A man getting health questions answered

For many people, access to healthcare depends on affordable marketplace
insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, or federal grant programs. Navigating those plans
and programs requires time, patience, and a certain amount of skill.

Equitas Health benefit navigators and financial counselors know the hurdles their
clients and others face to get coverage for healthcare. They work to make sure
people find a health plan that works for them and their needs. They also make sure
people stay enrolled to avoid a pause in their care.

“Whether it’s Medicaid or the marketplace, the applications are overwhelming and
anxiety-inducing. We help make it simpler,” Brayden Turner, manager of
community financial counseling for Equitas Health, said.

The Columbus-based, non-profit regional healthcare system serves people living
with HIV/AIDS, the LGBTQ+ community, and others seeking a welcoming and
affirming healthcare home. Equitas Health offices across the state, including the
Mansfield office, connect people to free HIV and STI testing, doctors and
pharmacists who treat HIV, dentists, counselors, support groups, housing
assistance, and affordable healthcare plans.

The Mansfield office serves 160 clients living in Ashland, Crawford, Erie, Huron,
Knox, Marion, Morrow, Richland, Seneca, and Wyandot counties. Most of those
clients are living with HIV.

Clients, patients, and anyone who needs help with a health plan can connect with
an Equitas Health coverage expert. People can speak to a benefit navigator in their
area or with a financial counselor through Equitas Health’s Connect to Care
program. This program links people to medical services and financial counselors.
You don’t need to be a patient or client to get help through Connect to Care. You
just need to fill out the contact form.

Fall is a busy time for Turner and his colleagues who assist with coverage. Open
enrollment for the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace insurance is Nov. 1 to Jan.15.
Even though people can sign up for Medicaid at any time throughout the year, they
often renew or change plans in October. Coverage navigators can also answer
questions during Medicare’s open enrollment period from Oct. 15 to Dec. 7.

Kimmie Gordon, a benefit navigator in the Mansfield office, helps people sign up for
Medicaid, marketplace insurance, and the Ohio Department of Health Ryan White
. As a payer of last resort, Ryan White pays for some HIV-related costs not
covered by insurance or other community resources. In order to sign up, clients
must be linked with a case management agency like Equitas Health. They can sign
up for Ryan White at any time throughout the year.

“The most important part of my job is talking with clients, asking about their care
and meds, answering questions, and helping them get enrolled,” Gordon said.

People living with HIV or seeking gender-affirming care have specific questions
about coverage for medication, surgery, and ongoing treatment. Turner’s team likes
to meet with people online or in person to look at the choices, let people know what
records they need, and remind them when to renew their plan.

“People who want gender-affirming care or who are living with HIV are really in
need of coverage. They don’t always know what resources exist, and they may fear
reaching out,” Turner said.

Those living in Ohio’s rural areas also have a harder time finding someone who can
answer their questions. They know what they need, but they don’t always know
where to go for help. Connect to Care counselors and benefit navigators provide a
safe space for people to ask questions and make choices about their coverage
without fear.

“I had someone reach out at 6 a.m. on a Saturday. They needed dental work right
away, and the dentist wouldn’t see them without insurance. I got them signed up
for Ohio’s Presumptive Eligibility, which lets some uninsured residents get
immediate healthcare services,” Turner said.

“A lot of folks don’t know the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. Others
don’t know what terms like ‘deductible’ or ‘out-of-pocket’ mean,” Turner added.

Some people come to Equitas Health through the Ohio Department of Health’s list
of service providers on the ODH website.

“We can assist anyone in Ohio, and we work with a lot of people who are not
patients. We want to make sure everyone can get insurance,” Turner said.

To connect to services or receive help with enrollment, email
ConnectToCare@equitashealth.com or call (614) 572-0881.

Learn more about Equitas Health services at EquitasHealth.com.

Equitas Health Mansfield is located at 410 Park Ave. West, Suite 5. Walk-in hours
are MON – FRI from 9 AM – 5 PM, or call (419) 525-2437 to make an appointment.

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