Staffing Mattered: Affordable Care Act Enrollment Got a Big Boost from Assister Programs
Healthy enrollment figures from state and federal marketplaces—topping 8 million sign-ups—during the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) first open enrollment period got a significant helping hand from 28,000 full-time staff and volunteers in 4,400 assister programs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
The survey, which is the first nationwide assessment of these programs and their impact, found that navigators and assisters provided in-person help to an estimated 10.6 million people. Programs in states running their own marketplaces helped people at twice the rate of programs in states that relied on the federal marketplace.
Around one in eight assister programs reported that consumer demand exceeded capacity, and that share grew to one in four during a surge in March as open enrollment neared its deadline. Among the most difficult challenges programs faced were helping consumers with online technical problems, helping consumers understand plan choices, and helping consumers who had a limited understanding of the ACA.
The survey was designed to capture issues that came up with consumers, assisters’ experiences with the enrollment process, and suggestions for improvements during open enrollment next year.