Consumer Conversations

By Stephanye R. Clarke

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I recently had the opportunity to chat with some Connecticut residents about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as “ACA” or “Obamacare.”  The following is a brief capturing of some answers from community members in southeastern CT who did not enroll during the last enrollment period. I found some of their comments to be very telling…

  • When asked if they were aware of the initial open enrollment period, three out of five reported not being aware of the enrollment period’s timeline.
  • Two individuals reported knowing of family members who are not enrolled who will definitely need in-person assistance to enroll.
  • Four of the five of them said:
    • Encountering difficulties while trying to enroll (online) on their own, prompting them to seek in-person assistance.
    • Intending to enroll during the next open enrollment; three of these are adamant about needing in-person assistance and the fourth will try online and seek in-person assistance if they encounter difficulties.

What I found interesting was the fact that they had several questions for me, including:

  • Why is it so hard to enroll?
  • Why isn’t their more advertisement?
  • Why aren’t we more aware of times and places (for enrollment opportunities)?
  • Why aren’t there more locations to apply?
  • Why aren’t the workers more educated on the system?

In the grand scheme of things, was this conversation “statistically significant” in the epidemiological sense? Perhaps not, but these stories matter—they matter in a time when a dramatically scaled-down version of in-person assistance is being developed. These stories matter in a time when marketing plans to reach the uninsured are being developed and implemented. Hearing from 29 and 55 year-old women who are unable to afford the monthly premium, despite qualifying for subsidies matters. In August it was reported that an estimated 147,000 CT residents are without insurance—so the questions regarding lack of awareness of enrollment opportunities matter and should be answered.

The uninsured need to know what to do and who to call to get enrolled. Those who did enroll need to know specifics about the auto-enroll option and shopping for different plans. It is the hope of this former in-person assister that there is a free-flow of accurate information to get and keep residents covered.

We’ll talk about the coverage soon.

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