Online applications are great, but if you are like me, you may want to talk with an expert the first time you complete one for health insurance. You might want to talk through how you are comparing health plan choices to see if there are any important considerations that you are missing. Or you might have questions about premium credits and whether to take them in advance or at the end of the year.
Elaine Saly is a health policy analyst at Families USA and developer of the Navigators and In-Person Assisters Resource Center. She recently composed a toolkit and presentation on the navigator program, a new grant opportunity for existing organizations to expand their services by conducting outreach and assisting individuals with enrolling in health care coverage through the insurance exchanges. She discussed the program and this exciting opportunity with us.
Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded $150 million in grants to 1,159 health centers across the nation to go toward building out their outreach and enrollment programs. These funds are expected to allow the health centers to hire an additional 2,900 outreach and enrollment workers who will be available to help millions of Americans enroll in new health coverage options starting October 1, 2013.
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.
Consumer Assistance Programs Lose Federal Funding Just When A New Group of Consumers Need Their Services
When consumers encounter problems with their health insurance after enrolling (many for the first time), they need access to unbiased experts to answer their questions. Although federally funded consumer assistance programs do just that, their continued funding is in peril.
How big is the problem?
Enrollment workers wear many hats, but one of the most important aspects of their job is helping consumers choose a plan that meets both their financial and health care needs. With all the different variables involved, it can be a daunting task. To help, our Enrollment Assister Network held a webinar to discuss how to help consumers understand and compare health plans.
Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $67 million in grants to 105 organizations to hire navigators and help consumers enroll in health insurance marketplace plans.
These navigators and assisters have played an invaluable role to millions of people who have signed up so far. Now, the federal government must prepare for the next round of funding.
The first open enrollment has ended--more than seven million people enrolled in health insurance through the marketplace. But as you know, there are many consumers who are still in the midst of the enrollment process and who are working to complete their applications and select a health plan.
Keeping and Using Health Coverage: Steps That Consumers Should Take after Enrolling in Health Insurance
Now that open enrollment has ended, enrollment assisters are turning to the next phase of their work: 1) Helping consumers who did not get enrolled by March 31 figure out whether they can still sign up for health insurance, and 2) helping consumers who did sign up learn how to use and keep their health insurance. To help enrollment assisters answer new questions from consumers, we’ve created four new factsheets.
The next open enrollment period begins on November 15, and navigator and assister programs are already gearing up to help consumers apply for new coverage or renew existing coverage. During the first open enrollment period, which ran for six months, navigators and assisters were inundated with requests for help from consumers. Demand was so great that staffers were often overwhelmed, and all available appointments were booked. Several state assistance programs found that using volunteers allowed their programs to reach and help more consumers.