Even though I’ve worked here as a health navigator long before “navigator” became synonymous with the health insurance marketplace and its anticipated roll out, I must admit even I was more than a little worried.
I learned that I would undergo training necessary to become a Certified Application Counselor (CAC). I had fallen victim to the media’s negative coverage without even realizing it. However, as it turned out, the training and the application itself was straightforward and easy to follow. I already had experience with complex social service applications like the Department of Children and Family Services [DCFS] and KanCare, yet, this one was surprisingly easy to complete.
Once I actually started taking appointments with clients, the enrollment process varied from fast and easy, to long and time-consuming, depending on the circumstances of the clients.
After all the talk about the website and its shortcoming and glitches, I realized that was not a deterrent at all to enroll; it was as simple as picking up the phone or completing the paper application. I never had to hold long to get assistance and the call from start to finish usually lasted no longer than 30 minutes. Now that the website is working with almost no glitches, the application intake time is similar to that of the phone call.
However, there are still unexpected situations that slow the process, for example, registering to create an account. It all comes down to something as simple as an email address… yes, an email address, something we have taken for granted for years. An email address is needed to accept the marketplace registration before starting an actual application.
Of course, an email address isn’t necessary to apply via phone or on paper form, but let’s be honest: if my clients want to know if they qualify for subsidies and want to see their options in real-time, then online is the best way to go.
If the individual does not have email, we offer to help them create an account. If they agree, I create an email account for them at that time. We provide them with a reminder sheet to take home with them that contains their new email address and password, along with pertinent Marketplace information, so they have everything they will need to check their application status results and health care plans.
In the rare instance that the client refuses an email account setup, we complete the application via phone, and their eligibility results and plan information would be mailed to them.
At the end of the day, all the glitches — including the verification holds and the non-qualify notices [because Kansas didn’t expand Medicaid] — are worth the trouble once that “Congratulations, you’ve successfully enrolled in the marketplace!” notice comes up, and a client leaves my office knowing that for the first time in years [for some, it’s the first time ever], they will have medical insurance they can afford.
I believe in the Marketplace and importance of the Affordable Care Act, I believe it will help many of the members of our community that are most in need and at the highest risk. El Centro is doing its part to inform the community and help those that need assistance, and I’m happy to play a part.