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Monday, September 23, 2013

Expert Q&A: Open Enrollment in the New Health Coverage Options

Kate Blocher

Staff Writer

This is the second blog in our Expert Q&A series on the Affordable Care Act. Our experts will answer common questions that people may have about open enrollment, which starts on October 1.

We are quickly approaching the start of open enrollment, when millions of Americans will finally be able to apply for affordable, quality health coverage that will go into effect on January 1. But many people are still unsure of how and where they can apply for coverage. To help clear up the confusion, I sat down with two of our enrollment experts at Families USA—Rachel Klein, Director of our new National Enrollment Assister Support Center, and Elaine Saly, Health Policy Analyst—to get answers for some of the most common questions about enrollment.

Q: How can I get help applying for coverage through my state’s health insurance marketplace?

A: There are several ways to get help applying for coverage through the health insurance marketplace. When you apply online at HealthCare.gov, you can get help from a marketplace customer service representative by using live chat or by calling 1-800-318-2596. You can also apply by phone with the help of a call center representative, or you can get assistance in person from expert organizations in your community that are trained to help people apply for coverage. The programs that provide in-person assistance may be called navigators, in-person assisters, or certified application counselors. To find in-person help, or to check if a person or organization you think can help you is certified to do so, use the Find Local Help feature on HealthCare.gov.  You can also use HealthCare.gov to find out how to get coverage through your state marketplace regardless of where you live.

Q: What are navigators, in-person assisters, and certified application counselors, and who will I be able to work with?

A: All state marketplaces will provide trained and certified people to help you apply for health coverage. What they are called depends on what services they provide, where they are located, and whether your state has another name for them. The important thing to remember is that these people are here to help you with the enrollment process. They will provide fair, accurate, and impartial information about all the coverage options available through the marketplace, including public programs, and they will help you to enroll in these programs. In addition, ensure that everyone has the help they need to enroll by providing services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate and accessible to people with disabilities or other needs.

Q: What can I do now to get ready to apply for coverage during open enrollment?

A: You can apply for health coverage through your state’s health insurance marketplace between October 1, 2013, and March 31, 2014, but there are a few things you can do now to get ready:

  • Answer a few quick questions on HealthCare.gov to get a list of coverage options you and your family may qualify for, information on where you can apply in your state, and a personalized checklist to help you get ready.
  • Ask questions about the marketplace through a 24-hour call center (1-800-318-2596, TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325). Online chat is also available through HealthCare.gov. Starting on October 1, you can ask these contacts questions about how to enroll.
  • Explore HealthCare.gov to learn more about new coverage options, make note of important dates, sign up to receive email and text updates, and find out what else you can do to get ready.

Open enrollment will be here before we know it. If you have any questions for our experts, leave them in the comments section below. And if you or any of your friends or family members plan to apply for new coverage options, please tell us about your experience!