The California Health Benefits Exchange Board held its monthly meeting earlier this week to discuss aspects of how best to advance California down the road to health reform. The Board is developing an “Exchange” which will serve as a new competitive health insurance marketplace to achieve a vast health insurance access expansion in 2014. Millions of Californians currently without health insurance will be able to get affordable, quality coverage and subsidies through the Exchange.
The biggest discussion topic was the Exchange enrollment design options. The central question is how best to process the flood of consumers expected to enroll at the outset of the Exchange. The Board is exploring how consumers will experience the enrollment process and the smoothest way for consumers to enroll in the best plan for them.
This is not an easy task as there will be multiple avenues through which consumers will apply, such as the internet, at a doctor’s office, at government agencies, over the phone, through the mail and in person. Additionally, the Board will have to find clear ways to help consumers choose a plan, help to determine premium assistance eligibility and be able to handle a wide array of questions and complaints regarding enrollment and quality of coverage.
Handling this influx of responsibilities will require skilled staff to help answer questions and assist consumers with the enrollment process. There is a broad consensus among consumer advocates that these “navigators” will have to be available beyond usual business hours via phone and in person.
In order to get the most people enrolled in the Exchange as possible, the Board and healthcare advocates agree the process will have to be consumer-friendly. That means enrollment must use simple application forms; provide plan choices with clear and concise information onf cost, quality and coverage; and above all, be hassle-free.
That begs the question, what is the biggest hassle you have had enrolling in a health plan? What were the points where you felt confused and did not know where to turn for help? What would you like the Board to do to make you experience as clear and easy as possible? I want to know!
Please email me at DIXOCH@consumer.org. I will pass your comments along to the Board. Together, we can ensure your voice is heard and that the health insurance marketplace works for all Californians.