September 15, 2014 at 5:15 am ET
As we look ahead to the next open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act in November, we face a number of new challenges, foremost of which is ensuring a smooth process for the 8 million Americans who will be renewing their Marketplace coverage for the first time (a topic I’ve written about in this space before). But the challenges go beyond just getting the policy right and making sure consumers meet the deadlines. As a health enrollment community we also need to do a lot more to increase health insurance literacy among the remaining uninsured and new enrollees, which will in turn make them more likely to enroll and retain their newfound coverage.
Even people who have been covered by employer-based insurance for most of their lives can find the terminology and navigation of health insurance confusing. So for people who enrolled via the marketplaces—many of whom got coverage for the first time—the knowledge gaps are significant. There are educational, socioeconomic, and cultural barriers to overcome. But based on our analysis of what worked in the first open enrollment period, we know that knowledge is power when it comes to health insurance enrollment and retention.
Here are some powerful findings:
For all these reasons and more, increasing health insurance literacy among the millions of Americans finding coverage through the marketplaces is critical to our mission. Making sure people understand how to compare plans within and across the bronze, silver, gold, and platinum metal levels, and how health insurance works once covered will help guarantee that consumers choose coverage that meets their needs and budget and that they will maintain coverage once enrolled.
We and our national partners are kicking off this expanded effort on health insurance literacy with a nationwide series of education and resource fairs specifically geared to the Latino community during Hispanic Heritage Month. Attendees will learn about the different types of coverage available, the essential benefits provided, basic health insurance terminology, and receive information about the financial assistance available through the Marketplace. We have also launched a Health Insurance Literacy Resource Hub to foster collaboration within the enrollment community and to create a one-stop-shop for organizations working on this issue. We will continue to develop and improve digital tools (such as our Get Covered Calculator and Plan Picker) to make sure consumers have the knowledge to get covered and stay covered.
Understanding how health insurance works isn’t a walk in the park. For many, there’s new language to learn, financial implications to understand, and a sometimes confusing selection process to navigate. But as daunting as these challenges may seem, we know overcoming them will be key to enrolling and maintaining coverage for millions of Americans as we head into this second enrollment period and well beyond, and our work is just beginning.