Countdown to Open Enrollment in Affordable Care Act Exchange!

Countdown to Open Enrollment in Ohio’s Health Insurance Exchange

October 1, 2013 will be a big day. Will Ohio be ready?

Columbus, OH—Today, consumer advocates came together to mark an important milestone—one year from the day that open enrollment will begin for health plans sold in Ohio’s health insurance Exchange. While health insurance will be available through the Exchange on January 1, 2014, consumers can begin selecting plans and enrolling on October 1, 2013.  There are 1.5 million uninsured Ohioans who can use the competitive marketplace to shop for health insurance coverage.

“Ohioans will have more choices and greater control over their health insurance options. That’s a big reason to celebrate! However, many Ohioans will need help finding health insurance that meets their needs,” said Cathy Levine, co-chair of Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage. “Will Ohio be ready to help them?”

The Affordable Care Act requires health insurance Exchanges to include a navigation program to help consumers learn about their choices and use the Exchange to obtain the insurance of their choice.

“Ohio’s leaders need to ensure that all Ohioans who are purchasing health insurance through the Exchange have the assistance of navigators from their community who speak their language and know their culture,” said Manju Sankarappa, Director of the Ohio Asian American Health Coalition. “Increasing access to insurance and health care will go a long way to reducing disparities in health outcomes.”

Jack Frech, Athens County Director of Job and Family Services, knows that because of geography, isolation, little access to health care, and poverty, the navigation needs for the uninsured in Southeastern Ohio are many.

“Many people do not have computers or access to the internet, regular phone services, or transportation,” said Frech. “One-size-fits-all information and outreach will not work in many southeastern Ohio communities. With so many barriers, we will need on the ground help—navigators who can knock on doors, establish trust, and help with issues beyond health insurance.”

In Ohio, African Americans and Latinos experience some of the highest uninsured rates, approximately 32% for each.  In addition, they are the least likely to have primary care doctors. 

“Without a robust Exchange and strong navigation system, many eligible people from the communities with some of the highest uninsured rates may not be enrolled in insurance or find the care they need,” said Tim Anderson, chair of the Near Eastside Health Advisory Committee of Columbus Public Health. “Ohio’s leaders must ensure there is adequate funding for a strong navigation system that brings culturally appropriate, face-to-face assistance from trusted community members to persons of color for whom enrolling in health insurance will be a new challenge.”

Regardless of whether Ohio has a federally run health insurance Exchange, a state-based Exchange, or a partnership Exchange, Ohio’s leaders can and must invest in a strong navigation program.

“Ohio needs a strong and robust navigation program to help consumers,” said Levine. “Our leaders need to engage stakeholders to help plan for and design the navigation system. Ohio needs to be ready to help consumers find insurance that is right for them. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work because we only have 365 days to get this right.”

Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage is a nonpartisan coalition uniting the diverse consumer voice with the goal of achieving affordable, high quality health care for all. Our membership includes AFSCME Council 8 AFL-CIO, Alliance for Retired Americans in Ohio, American Cancer Society East Central Division, Contact Center, Faith Community Alliance of Greater Cincinnati, Legal Aid Society of Southwest Ohio, National Alliance for Mental Illness of Ohio, National Multiple Sclerosis Society Ohio Chapters, Ohio Asian American Health Coalition, The Ohio Association of Centers for Independent Living, Ohio Council of Churches, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Progress Ohio, Service Employees International Union District 1199, Toledo Area Jobs with Justice and Interfaith Worker Justice Coalition, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1059, UHCAN Ohio, and We Are The Uninsured.