Preparing For Flood Of Consumer Questions On Insurance Exchanges



On Oct. 1, individual consumers and small businesses will be able to enroll in the online health insurance marketplaces known as exchanges. Minnesota, where the state is running the exchange, and Florida, where the federal government will be in charge, are preparing in different ways. Under the Affordable Care Act,  most Americans who don’t already have health insurance through employers, Medicare or some other source are required to get it as of Jan. 1 or pay a fine. Subsidies will be available for people who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level to buy insurance. Two state-based reporters filed these stories:

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A call center will be open later this summer to provide information to consumers about health plans, enrollment choices and procedures regarding MNsure, Minnesota’s new online health insurance marketplace.

MNsure’s executive director April Todd-Malmlov says Minnesota looked at the best practices of other states to develop the call center. If a phone staffer called can’t answer a consumer’s question, the staffer will conduct a “warm transfer” to someone who can.

“It’s essentially while you’re on the line with the person, know what that name is of that call-center person on the other line and say for example, ‘Linda, I’m going to transfer you to Sally who will be able to answer your question in more detail,” Todd-Malmlov said.

The goal aim is to provide a single initial contact for consumers, whether  the question is about government or private coverage, and to help consumers find answers to their questions in an average of about two minutes, Todd-Malmlov said. She said the center will be bilingual with language translation services.

“MNsure will have a 1-800 number that everyone can go to.  One common front door,” Todd-Malmlov said. “Not a different place for public programs or private or any of those questions; one common front door.”

The call center will open Sept. 3 — a month before marketplace goes live — and will even operate on weekends.

More than a million Minnesotans are expected to use MNsure to enroll in health coverage.

- Elizabeth Stawicki, Minnesota Public Radio. (Part of a collaboration with MPR, NPR and KHN.)

TAMPA, Florida – Florida will be part of a national effort by consumer advocacy groups, who will launch what they hope will be a massive education and enrollment campaign to find uninsured people and get them ready to sign up for health coverage.

The campaign, “
Get Covered America!
” launches June 22,  because that marks 100 days until the opening of state and federal  online marketplaces.

In Florida, they hope to find and enroll between 2 and 3 million people through the marketplace, which will be operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. One of the groups participating in the Get Covered! campaign, Florida CHAIN, will be making “a huge educational effort” to make sure people understand how the marketplace’s subsidies and tax credits work, said CHAIN’s advocacy director Leah Barber-Heinz of St. Petersburg.

Nick Duran of Miami, who will become Enroll America’s Florida director on July 1, said there will be regional strategy sessions for staff and volunteers next week to plan for the June 22 launch. He thinks they will be held in Broward County, Orlando and Jacksonville — and perhaps Tampa, too.

“We’re scrambling at the moment,” he said. “We’re excited.”

As for what will happen on June 22? Not marching bands and balloons, perhaps, but a lot of door-knocking, getting out into the community, Duran said.

– Carol Gentry, Health News Florida