Posted by Anna Strong on October 28th 2013
We are almost a month into open enrollment for the new health care coverage options available under the Affordable Care Act. Open enrollment is the time when 500,000 uninsured Arkansans can shop for and enroll in affordable, comprehensive coverage that comes with financial help that based on family income. Between now and March 31, 2014, families can explore their options and get covered.
It's no secret to those who read the paper or watch the news that there have been technical glitches in the enrollment website, www.healthcare.gov, that have slowed enrollment for some. While the federal government works to fix these issues, enrollment in Arkansas has forged ahead. Arkansas's enrollment assisters, many of whom are known as "guides" or "navigators," have been working steadily despite these challenges, using paper forms or call centers to help families enroll. Guides have hosted or set up booths at health fairs, local events, and even the state fair. (See how the Department of Health and Human Services is tackling tech problems here).
Additionally, we have blogged about the wildly successful effort by DHS to enroll SNAP-eligible families in the Private Option and ARKids First. As of late last week, 62,000 adults and an additional almost 3,000 ARKids First-eligible children have been determined eligible for coverage based on a single letter.
The AR Insurance Department has tracked calls (3,000), website hits (327,000), and Facebook likes (12, 000) during its three-month media campaign leading up to October 1. During this time, they measured public awareness of the ACA coverage options. I was blown away by the fact that between June and September, Arkansans' awareness that new insurance options would be available on October 1 increased by THIRTY percentage points (from 24 percent to 54 percent)! This shows that media campaigns work. It's unfortunate that the legislature has stalled the contract to continue this public education for the time being.
Even without media efforts, Arkansas is still growing its enrollment workforce, with guides and navigators being hired across the state by local organizations. Almost 1,000 guides, brokers/agents, or navigators have completed the process to be licensed to help you find and enroll in coverage that meets your health and budget needs.
It's important that we focus on the long-haul: a half million Arkansans can shop for coverage and enroll before the end of March. As the improvements to www.healthcare.gov are made, families can still get enrolled. You can follow the federal Health and Human Services Digitalk Blog for regular updates on the status of improvements and their "tech surge," including the infographic shared above. In the meantime, here are a few resources that can help you scope out coverage options.
- Shop without an account: https://www.healthcare.gov/find-premium-estimates/ (Note these premiums don't include subsidies for your situation)
- Get price estimates for your zip code and family makeup: http://kff.org/interactive/subsidy-calculator/
- Find local guide organizations that can help you enroll, local events: www.arhealthconnector.org