Groups working together to help residents overcome enrollment barriers for 2018
AUSTIN — Central Health—the public agency that ensures Travis County residents with low income get quality health care—and community partners gathered at United Way for Greater Austin on Friday to make final preparations for the Nov. 1 kickoff of open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace created by the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In addition to providing training and sharing information and educational materials with community partners, Central Health is building awareness of challenges consumers may face as they select their health coverage plans for 2018.
“Despite uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act, we’re moving forward,” Central Health President and CEO Mike Geeslin told attendees. “I tell people we’re not changing anything here in Travis County. In spite of the barriers this year – like reducing the open enrollment period to 45 days, which is half of what it has been in the past – Central Health will do everything it can to enroll residents in health insurance plans, including providing financial assistance.”
Several barriers could make it more difficult for consumers to enroll in health coverage for 2018. In addition to the shortened enrollment period, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would shut down Healthcare.gov, the website used to sign up for ACA insurance, for 12 hours of maintenance nearly every Sunday during the upcoming enrollment season. There are also tax penalties for not having health coverage.
These factors have made it important Central Health continues its local commitment to promoting ACA enrollment. Over the last five years, Central Health has invested $3 million in public education, outreach, and enrollment assistance.
With the support of community efforts by a number of organizations including Central Health, Geeslin said, more than 68,000 people in Travis County enrolled in health coverage through the Marketplace in 2017, including Central Health’s own nonprofit insurance provider, Sendero Health Plans. One Sendero customer, Yvette Herring, spoke to enrollment staff and volunteers Friday about her experience with the Marketplace and how to best work with both new and returning consumers.
In addition to Sendero, other community partners include United Way, Foundation Communities, Latino Healthcare Forum, and Travis County’s Federally Qualified Health Centers — CommUnityCare, Communicare and Lone Star Circle of Care.
Together, their message to consumers is: Do not delay, time is limited – enroll as soon as possible or risk not having health coverage in 2018. All of these organizations guide consumers and patients who need help navigating their options and understanding the financial assistance available.
Open enrollment in the Marketplace ends Dec. 15.