Health Insurance marketplace update

Some key dates have been announced for the next open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace. These dates also apply for Covered California.

  • November 15, 2014. Open Enrollment begins. Apply for, keep, or change your coverage.
  • December 15, 2014. Enroll by the 15th if you want new coverage that begins on January 1, 2015. If your plan is changing or you want to change plans, enroll by the 15th to avoid a lapse in coverage.
  • December 31, 2014. Coverage ends for 2014 plans. Coverage for 2015 plans can start as soon as January 1st.
  • February 15, 2015. This is the last day you can apply for 2015 coverage before the end of Open Enrollment.

Why We Rebooted–and Why You Need to Reboot, Too

Yesterday, Infopeople announced the grand reopening–okay, the notice–of the free (free!) independent online learning series, Affordable Care Act @ Your California Public Library. And no, it wasn’t an April Fools’ Day joke. What the heck?  Did we somehow miss the word that the initial enrollment period for the health insurance marketplace closed March 31?

Nope. And that’s exactly why we rebooted, revised, and re-announced. The health insurance marketplace is just one of the Affordable Care Act’s features. So, with that initial enrollment period now history, and with the California state public health policy makers, practitioners and health awareness foundations turning to the other major elements of the Act, it’s time for us, library folk, to turn attention to them, too. Or, more to the point, to turn our attention to how we can best assist our communities in connecting to health and wellness access, information and education that is up to date with the Act.

Among the big issues:

  • Financial and health literacy needs in many communities
  • Clarity about how to find, select and engage with clinicians to receive preventive care
  • Learning American English vocabulary for reading prescription info
  • Learning that there is linguistic and culturally competent healthcare available

The Affordable Care Act, made law in 2010, has a decade-long roll out period. The initial insurance enrollment came at the beginning of year four, so there’s a lot to discover that has been in place and which is now coming into play legally, and there’s even more to consider when it comes to planning how you can help your community connect to what is rightfully theirs under the law.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

The latest word(s) on healthcare insurance

There are six more weeks for Californians to enroll in the healthcare insurance marketplace during thisinitial open enrollment period. Now seems a good checkup time for public libraries to evaluate how well we have provided information and technology access to this Affordable Care Act program.

Have you and your staff been keeping up to date on changes, including regulations and scheduled online enrollment site down periods?  The quickest and most efficient way to do that is by subscribing to and following Covered California’s Twitter feed.

An announcement made there (and via other social media routes) last week alerts us all to the SHOP portal on the Covered California website coming down for the next several months. The explanatory news release includes the important detail that paper applications made for small business employer coverage will continue to be accepted and moved through the enrollment process during this period. Does your small business community know about this change?

In the first two months of the open enrollment period, public library staffs were reporting a generalized lack of inquiries from their communities regarding ACA. Interestingly, they also reported doing little in terms of public education–including such activities as hosting insurance education and health and wellness programs.  Changes in the demographics of who can and does have health insurance points to new insurance users who may have little understanding of health insurance speak (for instance, the difference between co-pay and out of pocket costs) and need some basic math skill-building (to calculate and compare percentages). Many who previously relied on emergency rooms to provide any medical attention they identified for themselves as needing aren’t experienced in how to discuss–and understand clearly–health information with a personal physician (for instance, the difference between a diagnostic test and a test related to a medical procedure). Has your adult literacy partner developed curriculum that addresses these needs to find educational help?

Six weeks ago, other components of the Affordable Care Act went into effect. As of January 1, very specific patient rights and protections  must be recognized, including an end to yearly and lifetime dollar limits an insurer will pay; free preventive care; mental health and substance abuse services coverage; and other details that can change how long-time insured people, as well as those new to health insurance coverage, when and how reliance on insurance provides new areas of care access.  Do your communtiy members know about these changes already in effect?

While roll out of the health insurance enrollment regulations related to the Affordable Care Act has received lots of popular media coverage, digging below that surface of opinion to lay bare the information that still needs to reach your community is an ongoing project.

More for your healthcare info hungry community

Covered California consumers can now use a quality rating system when choosing a health care plan is the latest big news about the state’s Affordable Care Act insurance market site. Reading the full story shows there is some real substance behnd the headline:

  • The scoring comes from the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems
  • Input for the scoring derives from consumers of each healthcare plan, who were asked about features ranging from ease of getting doctor appointments to medical care and customer service
  • The availability of such a scoring system is a requirement of ACA’s rollout, but this one isn’t a required accomplishment at the state level until 2016, so California is actually way ahead of schedule and plans to continue to tweak it as more data becomes available
  • Each healthcare plan offered through Covered California is assessed and rated according to how it stacks up against all such plans offered throughout the Western United States, so comparison evaluation outstrips the in-state options
  • And the rating is expressed with a four-star shorthand, with four stars indicating the plan is in the top quartile of the plans evaluated, three stars indicating the plan is as good as those ranking between 50% and 75% on the scale of 100% satisfaction, two stars for the third quartile (25%-50%) and one star for those with the bottom quartile ranking

This kind of information can also serve as a reminder that healthcare and health insurance are huge areas of literacy need. Using the Affordable Care Act’s requirements to design both adult and family literacy directions and programming can provide high value to your community. Learning to understand the “insurance speak” of co-pyay and deductibles, and the math understanding required to make judicious use of aligning this quality rating system with affordability are just two literacy training areas to consider. Like other aspects of the laws and regulations around ACA, the public library’s potential to demystify and educate can be parlayed into demonstrating the high value of the library itself to your community.

(Almost) everybody’s doin’ it

With the initial (but only initial, folks!) deadline for Covered California health insurance marketplace registration upon us next week, there has been much ado about information gathering, the Affordble Care Act, and public libraries. Thanks to the 82 who responded to Infopeople’s own survey of California public library activities related to the Affordable Care Act, we can see ourselves in the national context. During the same brief window we asked for library administrators and staff to respond to our survey, a national survey of state libraries, conducted by WebJunction, yielded responses from 40 states.  Here’s how things stack up:

  • 67% of responding California libraries reported receiving 0-4 questions related to ACA during the first two months of health insurance marketplace registration, while 55% of thos in Illinois responding to a survey reported receiving no questions related to ACA during the same period.
  • 73% of responding California libraries found Infopeople’s distribution of registration-focused posters and booksmarks useful. In contrast, it is interesting to note that Missouri law prohibits the use of any resources to support or educate on ACA.
  • California, through Infopeople, provides public library staff with a Resources page dedicated to ACA information, an archived webinar with library and Covered California speakers on the topic (which 46% of California responders reported viewing) and a free online independent learning series on ACA and public libraries (which 11% of California responders have taken and another 34% plan to take). Other states are also providing their public libraries with helpful resources on the topic, including Ohio’s [Federal] Health Insurance Marketplace Do’s and Don’ts for staff. Louisiana, another state with no state-level marketplace and thus reliant on the Federal insurance exchange, also provides its library staff members with an online course on working with community members to utilize Health.gov. The Montana State Library gives ready access to public library staff on Affordable Care Act Resources. Washington, a state like California where there is a health insurance exchange separate from the Federal one, provides library staff, through its State Library, with a resource page on the Affordable Care Act, linking them to state-level resources as well as federal law.

Other state libraries attending a call-in meeting yesterday, organized by WebJunction, included Maryland, New York, Colorado, Indiana, and Iowa, providing us with a mix of viewpoints and approaches from most regions of the country and representing both those states with their own marketplaces and those using the Federal one. In our discussion of initial difficulties reaching Latino populations, a national resource bubbled up that may help California public library staff clarify community concerns. The National Immigration Law Center has an excellent and accessible Frequently Asked Questions document will be added to Infopeople’s Resources on the Affordable Care Act.

One more resource of note, available under the Publications and Articles tab of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Resources portal, is titled “Protect Yourself from Fraud in the Health Insurance Marketplace.” This brochure is available for bulk order on that page.

Getting so many public libraries connected to whatever resources can lighten their loads as this massive national initiative continues is like learning any new language: we seem to have the vocabulary down well enough now to practice our conversational skills. And by talking about what we know and what we need with librarians both in California and in other states, we can continue to boost our effectiveness in responding to information needs.