Taking Stock and Taking Steps to Improve Consumer Assistance

By Tricia Brooks, Georgetown University Center for Children and Families

A new report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Kaiser Family Foundation chronicles the challenges, innovations and lessons learned about the needs of consumers for assistance in accessing and using health coverage options under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The report is compilation of feedback from the field, including a survey of assister programs and a national roundtable discussion among practitioners and experts convened to assess the rapidly changing context of ACA implementation.

My colleagues at the Georgetown Center on Health Insurance Reforms, JoAnn Volk and Sabrina Corlette, and I were among the roundtable participants taking stock of the critical importance of assistance programs and the steps that can be taken to better meet the needs of consumers going forward. Having provided technical assistance to a number of navigators and certified application assisters over the past year, we appreciate the challenges that assisters have faced in helping their communities access complex coverage programs.

The report emphasizes the need for more funding for consumer assistance but also notes ways to stretch limited assister resources. These opportunities echo many of the recommendations for improving and strengthening the infrastructure supporting assisters that a group of us sent to HHS last spring. While this newest report notes that suggested changes to strengthen consumer assistance would or should be undertaken by marketplaces directly, it also identifies how interim support by the private sector or philanthropy can also be helpful.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on the Center for Children and Families’ Say Ahhh! Blog.

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