Health Insurance Exchange Enrollment Affected by Customer Assistance Funds

Posted on: May 6th, 2013 by SamTabes No Comments

Some states are getting way more federal funds than others to put towards customer assistance which could ultimately affect how many people get properly enrolled in health insurance under the new exchanges.  Florida plans on spending about $6 million to reach about 4 million uninsured residents as they help them enroll for coverage in the federal health law’s marketplace in a few months.  Maryland will be spending significantly more than this, about $24.8 million on their 730,000 uninsured residents.  This is a very wide variation and it seems that it will likely affect how many uninsured people obtain coverage through these exchanges.

Some states with the highest rates of uninsured residents such as Florida and Texas are getting far less money per uninsured person from the federal government.  Some states with lower rates of uninsured residents are getting more money such as Maryland, Vermont and Rhode Island based on an analysis from Kaiser Health News.  This is because states using the federal government to run their marketplaces are getting less funds than the states who are choosing to set them up themselves.  States like Maryland are also using state funds to support their customer assistance efforts and this is furthering the gap even more.

Jon Kingsdale, a consultant who assisted with the Massachusetts health insurance exchange in 2006, says this spending difference will have a huge impact on enrollment.  Consumer assistance is very important in getting people to understand and navigate effectively the online health insurance exchanges.  Many polls show that most Americans are unfamiliar with the health law and everything that goes into it.  The online marketplaces open October 1st, and the federal government is hoping they will be easy to use and help get more people insured.  But adequate customer assistance is key to ensuring people understand how to use and understand the website.  Many people have never applied for health insurance and many will not be internet savvy.  Quality assistance could make a big difference in which states see higher insured rates and which ones do not.

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