Enrollment in the state’s Health Insurance Marketplace, created by the Affordable Care Act, will re-open Saturday. The Affordable Care Act established the health insurance exchange where shoppers can navigate plans and calculate subsidies for coverage based on income.
Leonard Stern works with the non-profit Future Builders to assist people enrolling in the healthcare exchange. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families partially funds the effort. Stern said unlike last year things are expected to run smoothly online.
“It is so easy to go through the healthcare.gov website. I have people call me just to ask me tips or with basic questions.”
However, he said there will be fewer workers to help people sign-up online or in-person.
“We’re estimating there are anywhere between 50 and 100 guides available to do the same work that over 500 did last year,” said Stern.
Healthcare navigators in the state are either funded federally or by non-profits. Earlier this year, the Arkansas legislature barred state funding for enrollment outreach efforts. Stern said Arkansas led the nation in lowering its uninsured rate but over 12 percent of the state still lacks insurance.
“I think the reasons why a lot of people out in the state are not enrolling is because it’s political. But what they don’t understand is this program’s saving lives. They’re largely in rural areas and trying to reach them is a big challenge,” said Stern.
Last year the state’s uninsured population dropped over 10 percent in large part because of participation in the new health insurance exchange.