Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The ACA needs you!

If you build it, they will come.

Unfortunately, the famous movie line isn’t so true for health care reform, said Karen Pollitz, moderator at a Tuesday Annual Meeting session on Affordable Care Act navigators and assistors.

“Health care reform is finally here, after years of waiting,” Pollitz said, however public awareness of the law’s provisions and how it all works is on the low side.

But public health practitioners can make a difference. Regardless of what state you live in, there are ways public health professionals can help spread the word and get people insured, said presenter Jessica Kendall of Enroll America.

First, Kendall shared a few success stories. Despite the Healthcare.gov website struggles, several states are doing just what was intended: lowering their ranks of uninsured. Oregon has already reduced its uninsured population by 10 percent and Arkansas by 14 percent, Kendall reported at the session. Kentucky is leading all 50 states with its success story, enrolling more than 32,000 residents — more than 1,000 a day — in health plans.

According to Kendall, past research shows that almost everyone in the United States, 91 percent, believes health insurance is necessary or very important. Cost and affordability are the biggest barriers, while financial and health security are the biggest motivators. Still, there is deep skepticism and confusion among consumers, she said.

To educate consumers about the health care marketplace, Enroll America recommends using the following four key messages, which resonate with 89 percent of the population, including 87 percent of the uninsured:

1. All insurance plans will have to cover doctor visits, hospitalizations, maternity care, emergency room care and prescriptions. “Let them know that coverage is available that will cover all the care they need because they’re starting from a place of not believing that,” Kendall said. “Essential health benefits” is too wonky to say to the average person, she added, so give illustrative examples instead.

2. You might be able to get financial help to pay for a health insurance plan. “Because if it’s that good of care, they are going to think they can’t afford it,” she told the audience.

3. If you have a pre-existing condition, insurance plans cannot deny you coverage.

4. All insurance plans will have to show the costs and what is covered in simple language with no fine print. “Anyone who has had to apply for coverage in the past knows that it’s complicated and it doesn’t make sense,” Kendall said.

“If you’re thinking about what you can do, it’s know these and share these,” she said. Also, know where people in your state can go for help — every state has navigators.

To learn more about health care reform, see APHA’s online Health Reform Resources.

— M.P.

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