MANKATO — An approaching deadline has Open Door Health Center navigators gearing up to help people sign up for expanded health insurance options.

The health center will host a free “last call” enrollment event for patients and non-patients alike 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday. Certified navigators will walk people through the process before MNsure’s special enrollment period for health insurance plans ends on July 16.

The special enrollment period was extended into July to account for more people needing health insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Rescue Plan stimulus, narrowly passed in March by the Democratic-led Congress, added more funding to Affordable Care Act marketplaces as a way to increase eligibility and lower health care costs.

With the funding from the rescue plan, Jayme Enamorado from Open Door said people might be surprised to learn they’re newly eligible for savings.

“This is having a major impact on premium prices, not only for people who already have a plan through MNsure, but they’ve upped the income guidelines,” said Enamorado, Open Door’s community outreach manager. “Maybe before if your income was too high, you’d be surprised to see the savings now.”

Individuals earning more than $51,040 per year or families earning more than $104,800 are among the newly eligible groups for tax credits on insurance plans. For those middle-income groups, the rescue plan stipulates costs be capped at no more than 8.5% of their incomes.

Additionally, the funding boost means people who received unemployment income at any point this year could be eligible for $0 monthly premiums. The subsidy is for a silver-level plan, so higher levels of coverage would likely come with a higher premium.

Between job losses leading to people losing insurance coverage and people new to the country’s health insurance system needing insurance for themselves and their families, Open Door’s navigators are there to make an often difficult sign-up process easier, Enamorado said.

“Our health insurance system can be really confusing and overwhelming, so it’s nice to have somebody to walk you through the process,” she said.

Open Door regularly works with its patients on insurance enrollment. Monday’s event is for any who need to sign up before the window closes, plus any community members who want to know if they’re eligible for subsidies.

Open Door’s navigators are bilingual English and Spanish speakers. Interpreters for other languages also are available.

MNsure’s special enrollment period first opened in February. As of early June, the state’s health insurance marketplace counted more than 9,600 Minnesotans who’d signed up for plans during special enrollment.

Demand for health insurance was up statewide in 2020. Minnesota’s regular open enrollment for 2021 health coverage ended in December with a 4% increase in sign-ups compared to the previous year.

At the time, MNsure CEO Nate Clark stated the global pandemic was a “harsh reminder” of how important health coverage is.

“Every plan sold through MNsure offers the peace of mind that comes with knowing essential benefits like hospitalizations, emergency services and prescription drugs are covered,” he stated.

Enamorado encouraged people to seek out assistance at the last-call event Monday, saying it would prevent people from having gaps in health care coverage between this summer and the end of the year.

“Make sure you get in and get your application in before the open enrollment period ends,” she said.

“Otherwise you’ll have to wait until the end of November and it’s a long time to go uninsured.”

To enroll, residents should know Social Security numbers and dates of birth for each person applying, bring an ID or immigration documents, last year’s tax forms, their most recent pay stub, a W2 form, employer’s address and contact information, and information about any employer-provided insurance.

Walk-ins will be welcome at Monday’s enrollment event, or Open Door encourages people to schedule an appointment by calling 507-344-5535.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArola

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