ACA Advocates, Exchange Officials Prep for Second Enrollment Period
Enroll America has raised less money this year to reach out to U.S. residents about enrolling in health coverage through the Affordable Care Act's insurance exchanges, despite plans to reach more individuals, Reuters reports.
The group on Wednesday said it has raised $20 million this year, compared with $27 million last year. However, the group expects to contact 1.4 million U.S. residents by phone or in person in 11 states this year, up from 927,000 last year. In addition, the group plans to reach more than five million individuals through social media, partner groups and email (Morgan, Reuters, 11/12).
Enroll America President Anne Filipic said that despite reduced funding, the group is "operating on a strong foundation" and "putting a ton of effort into developing streamlined messages" about enrollment (Viebeck, The Hill, 11/12). However, Filipic noted that getting people to participate in the second open enrollment period will not "be a walk in the park" because of difficulties targeting people who remain uninsured and ensuring that both those enrolling and re-enrolling in coverage receive the proper information. In addition, the open enrollment period this year is shorter than it was in 2013 (Howell, Washington Times, 11/12).
Despite those challenges, Filipic said the group has "the resources to get it done." She noted the introduction of two new tools to help the group's efforts:
- A database to help locate uninsured residents; and
- The "Get Covered Connector," an online application that connects consumers with specialists who can help them apply for coverage.
According to Filipic, partner organizations in an additional 11 states have adopted the tools (Reuters, 11/12). Filipic said, "There is no doubt we will have to work harder and smarter ... [But] while the uninsured might be harder to reach, they aren't harder to convince" to enroll (The Hill, 11/12).
Feds, State Exchanges Bolster Staff Ahead of Launch
In related news, the federal insurance exchange and state exchanges are bolstering their staffs ahead of Saturday's launch of the law's second open enrollment period, USA Today reports.
According to USA Today, HealthCare.gov will have an additional 1,000 employees at its call center this year. Meanwhile, states have hired more navigators to help individuals enroll in coverage. In addition, state-run exchange officials have said they are working to increase their reach and efforts to enroll and re-enroll as many residents as possible.
Specifically, state officials noted they are working to target hard-to-reach populations, such as those who do not speak English or young, healthy adults. Examples of those efforts include:
- A statewide bus tour in California and efforts to open over 200 storefronts where people can learn about and enroll in exchange plans;
- A retail store in Lexington, Ky., where people can enroll in coverage and the launch of an application that allows individuals to access the state's exchange on their mobile phones; and
- A texting campaign in New York (O'Donnell/Ungar, USA Today, 11/12).
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said, "I see huge interest in communities," adding that the state is helping residents to "find local people, insurance agents etcetera to help [them] enroll." He noted, "It will be harder this year," adding, "We think it's going to require more in-person assistance, and we're going to do that" (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 11/12).
Consumers Could Pay More for Health Plans This Year
Meanwhile, some consumers re-enrolling in health coverage through the ACA's exchanges this year could pay more for their health plans, despite potentially lower premiums, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Federal subsidies given to individuals purchasing health plans through the exchanges are determined based on the price of the second-lowest-cost silver plan being sold in a geographic region. Thus, lower-cost plans tend to bring down the subsidy amounts.
As a result, even though some health plans could feature lower premiums, consumers purchasing such plans would receive smaller tax credits to help offset the costs, resulting in higher out-of-pocket costs. In addition, individuals purchasing plans with the same premium costs as last year could pay more because the subsidy amounts have been reduced in that area.
To avoid the higher payments, officials have encouraged those re-enrolling in coverage to shop around for different health plans. Wakely Consulting Group Managing Director Jon Kingsdale said, "If you shop, there are big savings to be had," adding, "If you don't, you could be in for a rude shock" (Radnofsky, Wall Street Journal, 11/13).
Meanwhile, although millions of U.S. residents have gained coverage under the ACA, 32 million people remain uninsured, the Washington Post's "Wonkblog" reports.
The October Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index showed that the uninsured rate in the country has declined to 13.4%. Of the remaining 32 million who are uninsured, the survey showed that individuals between the ages 18 and 34 are trailing behind other groups when it comes to gaining health coverage. In addition, a June Gallup poll showed that uninsured rates among Hispanics dropped by just 5.5%. Meanwhile, uninsured rates in states that have expanded Medicaid under the ACA have dropped faster than in those that did not, leaving geographically disparities in uninsured rates.
While a large number of U.S. residents remain uninsured, many are unaware of the opportunity to get insurance during the upcoming open enrollment period. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, around nine in 10 uninsured adults who could be eligible for exchange coverage were unaware of the ACA's second open enrollment period. Further, an Enroll America report released this summer showed that many uninsured individuals did not look for coverage because they thought it would be unaffordable or did not know about the ACA's individual mandate (Millman, "Wonkblog," Washington Post, 11/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.