After some initial bumps, New York State was extremely successful in enrolling people into health insurance coverage plans during the first open enrollment period under Obamacare. Nearly 1 million people enrolled through New York State of Health, the State's health insurance marketplace, between October and April. And improvements are continuing: it was announced recently that a Spanish-language version of the marketplace will be ready this fall, and key materials have been developed in seven languages other than English.
Yet we know (at least anecdotally) that many people enrolling in health insurance coverage--in New York and across the country--found the experience confusing, overwhelming, or challenging. This challenge was mitigated somewhat by robust, effective consumer outreach and assistance through Navigator and Certified Application Counselor programs; 49% of all enrollees received help from an in-person assister and another 11% received online assistance.
But as the next open enrollment period begins this fall, what more will be needed to ensure that more New Yorkers not only sign up for coverage, but have a positive experience doing so? In conversations I've had with consumer advocates from across the State, a few issues have stood out as the most important priorities that would make New York's enrollment system even more customer-friendly:
- Make it easy to determine which providers are participating in each plan. One of the first things consumers want to know when they're shopping for a health insurance policy is whether their preferred doctors and hospitals are in-network, but the current system makes it nearly impossible to find out. A lack of accurate, consistent, easily accessible information about provider participation in plans is one of the biggest concerns consumer advocates hear. An improved enrollment system would allow customers to search providers' names to determine upfront which plans include those providers. It would also include alongside each plan option a list of the individual providers and institutions participating in the plan, along with information about the quality of care delivered by each provider. Importantly, this information needs to be kept up to date.
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