It's less than two months before individuals can begin signing up for health insurance through the marketplaces created by the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), and most Americans have very little understanding of what they need to do and how this impacts their lives. To help cut through the confusion and political noise, there are some new online tools that were just unveiled at HealthCare.gov.
Speaking in Nashville on Tuesday, August 6 at the Modern Healthcare Women Leaders in Healthcare Conference, Marilyn Tavenner, the government executive charged with launching the ACA, acknowledged that educating Americans is currently the biggest implementation obstacle:
"What keeps me up at night is how we get the message of the importance of having health coverage across to this country. Education is the biggest challenge before us."
By answering some basic questions, the HealthCare.gov website provides a plain English (or Spanish) description of how individuals and their families will be impacted. You can also create an account to receive personalized coverage options, checklists that help with preparation for the changes, and links to additional information. In October, this account will allow eligible people to directly enroll in a healthcare plan. Similar to the process for buying car insurance, you can start a live chat session with an agent who is an expert in the healthcare changes to get answers to questions that pertain to your specific situation.
The importance of understanding new healthcare options is relevant to all Americans, even those who are young and healthy. The enrollment of the Millennial generation is critical not only for the viability of the new marketplaces but also for the financial well-being of younger adults. Tavenner underscores this by sharing examples of adults under 30 who exercised regularly and decided not to purchase health insurance. However, when breaking a bone while playing sports or being unexpectedly diagnosed with chronic diabetes, their lives were dramatically changed. They could not afford to pay for treatments because they did not have health coverage.
The Obamacare tools and information are now in place, and there are multiple ways to learn about the new coverage options. Open enrollment begins on October 1 and lasts for a full six months. As Tavenner stated, "This is not just a sprint. This is a marathon." And the race has only just begun.