Almost two months into open enrollment for the new Health Insurance Marketplaces, it is clear consumer assistance is essential to helping people understand their coverage options. Fortunately, the ACA anticipated this need by requiring the marketplaces to have Navigators who will help consumers compare options and enroll in coverage. The Administration and states are also funding additional consumer support, including in-person assisters and certified application counselors.
As these assisters meet with consumers – across a table or over the phone – they must field a multitude of questions about plan options inside the marketplace and out, how individual and employer-sponsored coverage may change as a result of the ACA, and whether consumers have the coverage they need to satisfy the individual mandate. Today, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Center on Health Insurance Reforms (CHIR) released a Navigator Resource Guide that helps Navigators – and anyone working with consumers – explain key insurance and marketplace concepts and accurately answer a wide range of questions.
The Navigator Resource Guide includes 237 frequently asked questions (FAQs) developed in collaboration with researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It is designed to supplement the training available from the federal government and from states operating their own consumer assistance programs. It is also expected to be a “living” document – we’ll be updating it periodically to reflect changes in the rules and emerging issues for consumers.
The organizations and individuals that have signed up to assist consumers are doing heroic work under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. Every day they confront balky websites, often hostile opponents of the law, and clients that may have challenging financial, health, and family circumstances. At the same time, many of these Navigators are working hard to come up to speed on all the technical details of the Affordable Care Act and how to apply them to the circumstances of the individuals they are entrusted to help. It is our hope that this Resource Guide, and its future updates, will make it easier for Navigators to do their jobs – and help consumers better understand their options and enroll in the coverage that is right for them.
The Resource Guide is part of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project to support Navigators and other consumer assisters. In addition to the Guide, CHIR researchers will post blogs that address implementation challenges and consumer-related issues and provide technical support to consumer assistance organizations in selected states. Check back with CHIRblog regularly for more on this project.