New Survey Shows Assister Programs Continue to Meet the Needs of Consumers

By Zachary Baron

We have consistently highlighted the crucial role that in-person assisters play in connecting consumers to coverage, and have designed tools like the Get Covered Connector to help make assistance programs more efficient. As a data-driven organization, we are always seeking to learn from the past to refine and strengthen our efforts for the future. That’s why we are so excited to see that the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has released its second annual survey on in-person assisters (including Navigators, In-Person Assisters [IPAs], Certified Application Counselors [CACs], and for the first time, agents and brokers that provide enrollment assistance).

Our data has shown that people who received in-person assistance were 60 percent likelier to successfully enroll in coverage, and key findings from the KFF survey illuminate how and why assisters are meeting the needs of consumers:

  • During the second open enrollment period (OE2), more than 5.9 million people received help from more than 4,600 assister programs, which employed around 30,400 staff and volunteers across the country. CACs made up 61 percent of the total number of programs.
  • Ninety-one percent of assister programs were also helping marketplace consumers last year. As we’ve previously highlighted, the Department of Health and Human Services’ decision to award Navigator grants for three years will further this trend, helping Navigator programs to make longer-term plans and have greater programmatic stability.
  • Consumers continue to need personalized help to apply for coverage, understand their plan choices, and grasp basic insurance terms. Eighty-two percent of assister programs said that most or nearly all consumers needed help understanding their plan choices; and 74 percent of assister programs (this year and last year) indicated that most or nearly all consumers needed help understanding basic insurance terms, such as “deductible.” This reinforces that low levels of health insurance literacy (HIL) remain widespread among consumers seeking coverage, and that’s why we continue encouraging the enrollment community to apply our five-point framework on HIL to learn more about how to effectively engage consumers. The challenges some consumers face in selecting a plan also highlights the need for our new digital tool, the Get Covered Plan Explorer, which will help consumers be more confident in selecting a plan.

KFFSurvey

  • Assister programs provide vital services year-round. Assister programs reported helping an estimated 630,000 consumers apply for coverage through Special Enrollment Periods, 290,000 consumers report mid-year changes to the Marketplace, and nearly 800,000 consumers resolve post-enrollment problems. This underlines the importance of following up with clients as appropriate to make sure they are best positioned to maintain their cov

KFF’s new survey reinforces the progress that enrollment stakeholders have made in connecting millions of people to coverage, particularly in-person assisters of all stripes (unlike last year, this survey includes agents and brokers, who are critical players in the enrollment coalition!). But even though considerable progress has been made, there is always room for growth. Assisters identified key areas for improvement with the application and enrollment process, particularly in regards to marketplace websites, call centers, plan selection, and training. Using lessons learned across the country, Enroll America continues to focus on ways that we can best support the in-person assister community to help address these issues. We are improving the Get Covered Connector to be more responsive to assister needs and position them to better track outcomes for use in reporting. In launching our Get Covered Explorer just in time for OE3, assisters will have a new digital plan comparison tool to help potential enrollees understand how different plans might fit their medical needs and budget.

For more details on these findings, click here to read the full survey report.

And to read the topline survey results, click here.

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