Health exchange assisters continue to enroll consumers amid funding uncertainty

While more than 4,600 online marketplace assisters helped consumers enroll in Affordable Care Act health plans during the second open enrollment period, only 27 percent of assister programs are certain that funding will be available to support them next year, according to an issue brief from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The report, which is based on data from assister programs and brokers at the end of the second open enrollment period, found that 91 percent of assister programs and 86 percent of brokers this year also helped consumers last year, and the majority of those who returned said the second open enrollment period went better than the first.

Assister programs helped nearly 5.9 million consumers this year, while returning programs helped 5.8 million of those consumers.

As noted in the brief, the findings suggest growing consumer need for in-person assistance. Seventy-nine percent of assister programs this year said most or nearly all consumers sought helped because they lacked the confidence to shop on their own. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of uninsured Americans wish they had more information about health insurance terms, and 42 percent want more information directly from health insurers, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

KFF also found that assister programs want better information on health plan choices--31 percent of programs this year said consumers had health plan-related questions that weren't answered by information provided on an exchange's website. Programs noted that technical assistance from call centers was unstable.

And while the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services previously dished out $60 million to fund navigators during the second open enrollment period, many state-run exchanges have yet to decide the level of resources they will fund in the third year.

For more:
- here's the issue brief

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