Millions of uninsured Texans may be eligible for affordable coverage options in the new Health Insurance Marketplace, but too many don’t know about their coverage options or how to enroll. This is one reason why in-person enrollment assistance is critical.
In-person assistance is incredibly effective, and research done during the first open enrollment period shows us that people who got in-person assistance were twice as likely to successfully enroll than people who tried online on their own. What’s more, enrollees report high satisfaction rates with in-person enrollment assistance. More than 90% of Texans helped by in-person assisters reported in June (after the close of open enrollment) that the assistance received was helpful, while only 60-70% reported that the website or call center were helpful. In-person assistance was especially key for certain communities. For example, Latinos and African Americans were 43% more likely to seek out in-person enrollment assistance than their white counterparts.
Three of four people who are newly eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) indicate they’d like in-person assistance to help them enroll. That isn’t surprising – health insurance is confusing even for people who have had it continuously and the process to enroll through the Marketplace is still relatively new to most people.
Different Types of In-Person Enrollment Assistance
In general, there are three broad categories of in-person enrollment assistance for the Marketplace: Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, and health insurance agents/brokers. Navigators are trained, certified, and grant-funded by the Marketplace to provide impartial and accurate outreach and enrollment assistance. Certified Application Counselors (CACs) also receive training and certification through the Marketplace, but other than CACs at Community Health Centers, their work is not federally-funded. Enrollment assistance by CACs is available through Community Health Centers, hospitals, clinics, local governments, and community groups. Health insurance agents and brokers are licensed insurance professionals who can often help people and businesses enroll in the Marketplace or obtain insurance outside of the Marketplace.
How to Find In-Person Assistance
The Marketplace can direct you to local, in-person assistance through the toll-free phone line, 1-800-318-2596, or LocalHelp.Healthcare.gov. Get Covered America also has a helpful online locator, available at www.getcoveredamerica.org/locator. The Healthcare.gov phone/online in-person assistance locator allows people to identify services in languages other than English. The Get Covered America locator has a helpful mapping feature.
Take Action to Become an In-Person Assister
Demand for community-based, in-person enrollment assistance in Texas often outstripped supply during the 2013 enrollment period. Organizations and individuals who’d like to help their community members enroll can do so by becoming Certified Application Counselors. Enroll America has a great CAC Organization Toolkit available to guide you through the process, and they are working to match individuals interested in volunteering as a CAC with organizations providing in-person enrollment assistance. If you would like to speak with someone from Enroll America about becoming a CAC organization or individual CAC, email CACinfo@EnrollAmerica.org. Staff at CPPP served as volunteer CACs during the last open enrollment period through Insure Central Texas, and I can attest that is was an amazingly rewarding and educational experience.