NoHLA Survey of Health Care Navigators and Assisters Identifies Issues that Need Attention
In September 2015, NoHLA conducted its second annual online survey of the navigators and assisters who help Washington residents apply for health coverage. In total, the 64 respondents, representing all of Washington's 39 counties, assisted approximately 81,000 individuals between October 2014 and September 2015.
"While we are pleased that the first two years of Affordable Care Act implementation has sharply reduced the number of uninsured in our state, this survey indicates that obstacles remain which must be addressed," Janet Varon, Executive Director of NoHLA observed. NoHLA will use the survey results to guide its advocacy in the coming year.
Summary of NoHLA's Recommendations
Coverage remains unaffordable for some. The Exchange should gather data to identify the cost barriers and populations affected. Based on this information, policymakers should create affordable coverage options so that all people have access to coverage.
Website and Technical Problems
Website and technical issues remain a critical barrier to enrollment and retention of coverage. These issues should be permanently fixed on an expeditious timeline, to allow people to enroll during the upcoming open enrollment.
Issues for Immigrants and Other Populations
Serious barriers remain for immigrants and other populations. HBE and state agencies, including DSHS and HCA, must work together to prioritize eliminating barriers for immigrants, victims of domestic violence, youth, newborns, and other discrete populations and should provide ongoing training for consumer assisters and customer service personnel to ensure the provision of accurate and timely assistance.
Knowledge Gaps and System Complexities
Information and knowledge gaps remain. Consumers continue to face challenges resulting from the complex new system for application and enrollment that does not always work seamlessly. These issues should be addressed in three ways:
- Policymakers should do all they can to simplify the systems and processes people use to obtain coverage, which requires a high level of coordination between state agencies and the Exchange.
- The Exchange and state agencies should continue to develop and refine consumer materials that educate people about how to apply and enroll in coverage, use their coverage, and understand health coverage terminology.
- A robust consumer assistance program is necessary to help people, including those with specialized needs, navigate the system and make important decisions about their health coverage and care.