When the new, Affordable Care Act (ACA)-created Health Insurance Marketplace (HIM) opens on October 1 - less than 100 days from today - Maine will be the only state in New England to have a federally-facilitated (as opposed to state-run) exchange. That fact may help explain why Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regional administrator Ray Hurd and colleagues visited Portland this week to participate in a training on the HIM and provide an overview of the new and improved HealthCare.gov. I had an opportunity to attend the training on behalf of MeHAF* and wanted to pass along some key takeaways from the meeting.
-HealthCare.gov has been re-launched! This is the consumer website for all ACA-related questions. It’s been redesigned for desktop and mobile devices, which will come in handy when folks begin searching for HIM information from their smart phones. It looks like a pretty impressive site. For professionals interested in helping people use the HIM, check out the HIM information page for assisters and outreach partners.
-The federal call center is now open as well to answer general questions on the HIM and ACA – 1-800-318-2596 – in English and Spanish. Other language interpreters will be available through a service.
-Starting on October 1, callers will be able to enroll by calling the federal toll-free number or by enrolling online. The CMS presenters expect that the vast majority of enrollees will do so online.
-The HIM will be the single point of entry where uninsured individuals and people with insurance looking for new, more affordable options can find out about their coverage options and select the plan that best fits their needs.
-Information about insurance plans submitted to the Maine Bureau of Insurance to be offered on the HIM should be available in August. It’s been widely reported that two insurers have submitted plans to be offered on the HIM in Maine. We don’t have details on these plans yet, but will profile the plans as soon as information is released.
-Selection of Maine “Navigators” – organizations receiving funding to provide assistance to help individuals enroll in the HIM – will be announced in mid-August. Online training for organizations interested in assisting people in enrolling but not designated as Navigators will be available in August or September.
-Insurance brokers will also be able to participate in a condensed version of the training to ensure that they are able to link their small business and individual clients to tax credits and subsidies available only through the HIM.
While it was great to have Administrator Hurd and others from CMS, along with U.S. SBA District Director Marilyn Geroux and Mitchell Stein from Maine Consumers for Affordable Health Care (CAHC), share their knowledge of the ACA and how the HIM will operate in Maine, the training made it clear that much work remains to be done before and after October 1 to make sure that Maine people and small businesses get clear and complete information about new health insurance options!
CMS will be back in Maine for another informational session at Brewer Medical Center on July 16. If you’re interested in learning more about the HIM in Maine, don’t miss this session!
*Since the passage of the ACA in 2010, MeHAF has provided funding and support to a group of Maine organizations engaged in educating Maine people on all aspects of health reform. In the first years, our Health Reform Outreach & Education grantees focused on sharing information about aspects of the ACA that went into effect immediately, such as the provision allowing young adults under age of 26 to stay on or join their parents’ health insurance plans. This year, the group has focused its coordinated messaging and outreach on issues related to the HIM and the requirement that all individuals have health insurance beginning in 2014. For more information about this program, see our Affordable Care Act Outreach, Education and Enrollment initiative page or contact Program Officer Morgan Hynd at 207.620.8266 x116.
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