Marketplace Enrollment Tools Help Consumers

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Did you know that 48 percent of uninsured consumers don’t feel confident in choosing a health plan? The great news is that this open enrollment period there are new and improved tools to help consumers choose the best health insurance plan for themselves and their families. Consumers who fully understand their plan benefits are more likely to keep their plan and to renew their coverage.

Here are two new tools that can help people with plan selection:

Enroll America’s Get Covered Plan Explorer gives consumers an easier way to pick the best plan by listing plans by total estimated yearly cost instead of just premium or deductible. To estimate the total yearly costs, it asks about a consumer’s general health and healthcare needs, and incorporates expected financial help. The tool also helps consumers see if their favorite doctor is covered under the plans in their area. Another Enroll America tool is the connector to help people find, and schedule appointments, with local help.

HealthCare.gov’s eligibility tool also offers personalized information for consumers, like information on the yearly out-of-pocket cost based on expected health care needs. Consumers can search for plans with specific doctors and/or prescription medications. Since this this feature is still in beta testing [UPDATE: this tool is now available to all users), the site offer only about 25 percent of consumers the chance to try it. Healthcare.gov is also rolling out an improved process for resetting passwords, which can be a big issue with a website that most consumers might only log into one or twice a year.

As we’ve noted in a previous blog, Healthcare.gov’s functionality presents challenges for lawfully present immigrants, and these tools aren’t especially accommodating. Some lawfully present immigrants could be told incorrectly they are in the Coverage Gap or are eligible for Medicaid.

Provider directories are a great addition to Healthcare.gov, allowing consumers to see if they can keep their current provider. But these directories have included inaccuracies in the past and consumers should always call their provider to confirm. Luckily, the Texas Legislature passed HB 1624 last session, and once implemented it should help reduce these discrepancies by requiring insurers to (1) have a phone number and email consumers can contact to report issues with provider directories and (2) follow-up on the report within 7 days. Also, insurers now must update provider directories at least monthly instead of quarterly.

Open enrollment for 2016 health plans continues through January 31, 2016, but enrolling by December 15 will ensure coverage starts on January 1. Our new Texas Health Care Guide can also help with navigating the process of finding, buying, and using new health insurance plans.

By Julia Von Alexander, CPPP Health and Wellness Intern

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