Report: ACA marketplace assisters still play vital role

As consumers continue to have complex questions about the process of signing up for a health plan through Affordable Care Act marketplaces, the assisters who answer these questions play a vital role in ensuring enrollment success, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Foundation.

To condust their study, researchers from Georgetown tagged each call entered into the Assister Help Resource Center log between Nov. 1, 2015 and Jan. 31, 2016 with an eligibility and enrollment category label. They then reviewed each question within each category to capture the range of issues that assisters had to solve. These ranged from questions about whether the caller qualified for financial assistance to those concerning technical issues and duplicate accounts from prior enrollment efforts.

The report concluded that assisters are still an extremely important source of information for marketplace consumers. The rules that govern eligibility and enrollment are complex and evolving, and are often challenging because all households are different, with varying income with diverse coverage needs.

"Without doubt, one-on-one assistance is and will continue to be essential for many consumers, a large proportion of whom would not ultimately enroll into coverage without the guidance assisters provide," the researchers wrote.

Assisters are also a valuable source to the marketplace, because they give feedback regarding member experiences that allow officials to identify and address systemic or policy-related problems as they arise, the report says. Going forward, the researchers add that policymakers must prioritize areas of greatest need, as funding for assister programs is not infinite.

To learn more:
- here is the report