More than one million Pennsylvania residents don’t have health insurance. That’s about to change in the upcoming months with Open Enrollment in October that will allow individuals, families and small businesses to purchase affordable medical coverage. Our website, along with other brokers and navigators, will help Pa consumers choose the best plans and assist in determining eligibility for the federal subsidy. We will provide the most affordable Pa Health Exchange prices from each of the participating companies.
Recently, the Administration distributed approximately $3 million to five volunteer groups in Pa to assist in “getting the word out.” Nationwide, almost $70 million was spent on promoting community outreach programs, often with the help of “Navigators,” who will have limitations placed on the assistance they can provide. Although they are expected to help explain basic plan descriptions and show how consumers can apply for coverage, they can not make specific recommendations regarding which plans to apply for, or calculate tax subsidy amounts.
They will be most helpful in residential areas where residents, who are not comfortable using computers, are using the internet. Also, for many disabled persons, or others that lack transportation, once again, these are prime examples were navigators may help. Consumers that prefer to meet face-to-face may also be aided by navigators.
However, they still are not able to provide the in-depth comparison and research that a broker-website like ours can offer. The lack of comprehensive training, insurance experience, and overall knowledge of current carriers and plans, means that customized policy recommendations will not be offered. Only our website, and other experienced and registered resources can provide this type of data.
HHS Will Try To Help
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is hoping that a combination of elected lawmakers, industry leaders, and community church and civil groups, can help brokers (and websites like ours) contact persons that prefer face-to-face communication instead of internet or email. The amount of allocated money is less than anticipated, since many states have chosen to let the federal government operate their Exchanges. About 34 states have declined to operate their own Exchanges, although most will re-consider next year.
Here in Pennsylvania, like most states, possible security breaches are major concerns. The flow of personal information, including social security numbers, medical records, tax information and other personal items will be a challenge to keep secure. Already, Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner is facing criticism regarding the Data Services Hub, which is the source of all information and data for the new Health Exchanges.
With Open Enrollment only a month away, testing still has not been completed, and numerous vulnerabilities still remain. CMS has indicated that all bugs and security issues would be fixed by October, when consumers can start applying for coverage. But there are many complex tasks that have yet to be completed, including independent analysis of system procedures, and explaining how secure subcontractors (that were recently hired) will be with the flow of information they provide.
Federal Money Helping Pa Consumers Enroll
“Resources For Human Development” received almost $1 million of free government money. This was the biggest donation given to any entity in Pa for this type of work. They will mainly focus on 10 counties, with special attention given to the Pittsburgh area. About five persons will be hired, which leaves little time to train, do thorough background checks and monitor past activities. The steep $200,000 per employee price tag has been harshly criticized by both Democrats and Republicans, especially when much more reliable and experienced brokers are available for a fraction of the cost.
A 20-30 hour training module is required along with taking an passing a test. While this type of requirement is, of course, badly needed, it simply does not go far enough. The problem may be that the six-week allotted time limit is too short. Six months of supervised classes, training and testing would have improved both the knowledge and confidence of the new workers and navigators, and provided an opportunity to view mock enrollments.
Also, having an active license from the Department of Insurance would have been the ideal requirement, if time was not a consideration. Passing the state exam involves many hours of reviewing materials, and also updating requirements every other year. The substantially more-rigid licensing would certainly help consumers.
So get ready! The Pennsylvania Healthcare navigators may be coming to a community near you. They are there to help, although licensed experienced brokers, and websites such as ours, will provide a much broader base of updated information and policy recommendations that will help you with the Pa Exchange Marketplace.
Delays and confusion continue to plague the .gov healthcare website. Of course, navigators are finding it difficult to help, since the enrollment process has been considerably slowed down. and their tasks have become more difficult. However, broker websites (such as this one) continue to provide perhaps the best method to view online quotes.
Has the situation improved? It has, although experienced brokers and websites (ours is a perfect example) continue to be the most reliable and trusted option for reviewing rates, plans, and easily enrolling online.