The open enrollment period for Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace insurance plans is underway, and will remain so through Dec. 15.
A number of community health facilities and advocacies have navigators in place to walk community members who need guidance through enrollment, noted Howard Brown Health Benefit Coordinator Rachel Maher.
"We mostly help people who are on the marketplace," said Maher, who added that Howard Brown Health aims to enroll about 400 individuals. The organization also offers assistance to those enrolling in Medicare and Medicaid plans as well.
Despite the relative popularity of the ACA in the populace, many are skeptical about whether they can find affordable insurance, she added.
"I still see people who assume that they can get healthcare insurance at all, and I see people who don't think they'll be able to afford an Affordable Healthcare Act plan option," she said.
Maher added that, though the government will not be enforcing the penalty for not having insurance, consumers should nevertheless persevere. Persons living with HIV, for example, are virtually assured of finding coverage through various configurations of ACA and Ryan White Act resources.
"We'll work with you to find something," she said.
Jordan Wishner, who founded the Chicago-based agency the Health Insurance Shoppe, noted that the process may be frustrating, especially when a financially-strapped consumer finds that they still make too much to qualify for subsidies and are thus subject to higher premiums. As such, they should continue to investigate affordable and effective options, such as checking whether their employer takes part in a Small Business Health Option Program, which Wishner said can provide a more affordable consumer option, with a minimal effort from their employer.
"If an employer wants to contribute, all the better," he added.
Maher added that it is easy to become overwhelmed and frustrated by the choices, but consumers usually just need small amount of information when they get assistance, including an estimation of their income; a list of medical conditions and prescriptions; usernames and passwords for their current plan, if any; and, for those not born in the United States, proof of immigration or citizenship status.
"Whether it's your first time or not, it's best to work with a licensed insurance agent or navigator," said Wishner.