Second open-enrollment period discussed at Atlanta chapter event

The Atlanta chapter of AHCJ and the Alliance for Health Reform sponsored a Dec. 2 event focused on the second open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act.

The panel discussed the state of navigator assistance, narrow networks and slower-than-expected enrollment since the insurance exchanges opened Nov. 15. About 25 AHCJ members and invited guests gathered for the event.

Joining me on the panel were Trey Sivley, a division director in the office of Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner; Lisa Stein of Seedco, which runs a navigator program in Georgia and three other states; and Dorian Martindale of Whitefoord, a federally qualified health center in Atlanta.

Stein and Martindale agreed the enrollment process was different this time around, because of a better functioning website and the relatively low demand from consumers during the first two weeks.

Stein described the basic differences between navigators and other counselors advising consumers during open enrollment. She cited a study sponsored by Seedco that found consumers appreciated the help that navigators supplied.

Stein also said that there weren’t enough federally funded navigators to cover Georgia.

Martindale said that about half of the enrollees so far were new enrollees, and half were returning to the exchange. He said the rising tax penalty for not having insurance was an issue that has captured consumer attention.

Sivley told journalists about new federal guidance related to the ACA. When asked about Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens’ vow to obstruct Obamacare, Sivley said the insurance agency’s consumer division had helped connect people to assistance in enrolling.

I suggested that journalists may want to explore the success or failure in enrolling ethnic groups and people in rural areas of the state.

Stein and Martindale spoke of the need of more reporting on ACA open enrollment to stir interest and educate consumers.

The journalists, in turn, said that they were looking for good stories to come out of the application process, and that those assisting in enrollment could help identify and facilitate those stories.

For more information, see the edited transcript of this meeting.

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