Consumers Need to Be Educated on ACA Enrollment

The Affordable Care Act has made health insurance more accessible to a larger number of Americans, but there may still be some confusion over who should sign up and how to enroll. Hospital marketing efforts can aim to deliver more information on this area for patients. Although open enrollment for ACA coverage ended in April and most people think they have to wait until the enrollment period for 2015 to access healthcare, nearly 1 million people have been able to sign up or change their plans since then, according to Healthcare Daily. However, the numbers do not make it clear how many people gained coverage for the first time compared to those who modified their plans.

Although the healthcare exchanges have been closed for the past few months, people who experience a life event, such as a birth, marriage, divorce, job change or move, can enroll in an ACA plan. These factors are how Americans have been able to access care since April, but this availability is not widely known. 

In fact, there are other circumstances in which individuals can sign up for coverage or switch plans, AARP stated. Due to website difficulties during the open enrollment period, many people were locked out of registering. Because the ACA has created penalties for those who do not have a healthcare plan of any kind, people who experienced a website malfunction during open enrollment may be fined. However, these individuals can acquire a special registration period now. In addition to the qualifying life events, a change in income status can make individuals eligible to enroll now. For example, the federal government offers subsidies for lower-income Americans, such as Medicaid and the Children's Insurance Program. If recipients experience a shift in income, they may not qualify for these programs anymore, but they can enroll for ACA coverage now.

More Confusion Could Result from ACA in 2015
Eight million people enrolled for health insurance through the exchanges last year, and one of the proposed ways to make re-enrollment easier was to automate the process, according to Albuquerque Journal. However, the stipulation is that automatic renewal will be for the exact benefit total as 2014, which does not account for inflation. This could also be problematic if households have experienced an income change. Although automatic renewals might streamline the open enrollment process, it could lead to new complications when it comes to premiums. Additionally, premiums and plan options will be updated in 2015, so consumers may stand to benefit if they investigate their choices in the exchanges. People can lose coverage if they don't pay premium amounts. 

Because of the ongoing confusion regarding the ACA, it may be worthwhile for healthcare organizations to target enrollees with marketing efforts to provide more information on plan options and premiums so individuals can ensure they are getting the best deal and the level of coverage they need. By collecting data from a variety of sources, providers can distinguish patients who have moved or had another significant life change in the past few months and inform them of their options.

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