Remarks to an ACA Outreach and Enrollment Event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

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U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
HRSA Press Office: (301) 443-3376<

 

By HRSA Administrator Mary K. Wakefield

November 13, 2014
Cleveland, Ohio

It’s such a pleasure to be in Cleveland today to “Rock Enroll” people across this city and region in health insurance coverage -- coverage that’s available through healthcare.gov starting on Saturday, November 15.  

Or put another way: the second open enrollment period of the Health Insurance Marketplace starts just two days from right now!  In two days, people across Cleveland, across Ohio and across the country will have the opportunity to take the on ramp and get on the road to staying healthy or getting healthy -- person by person, family by family, community by community.

While they can window-shop the website healthcare.gov now, on Saturday they’ll be able to log in and select a plan that fits their needs and their budgets.  And all plans available there cover pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits, recommended preventive health services and, of course, much more.

Later in the program you are going to hear from Walter -- one of the millions of people who did just that – he’ll talk about the difference that getting insurance through the Marketplace has made for him.  

While Walt’s story is his own personal story, it has 7.3 million variations -- 7.3 million Americans who have already enrolled in Marketplace coverage and another 8.7 million individuals who have enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  They are able to get covered because of the Affordable Care Act and because you -- and others like you working across the country -- are committed to getting the word out and helping people get enrolled.   

I’m a Registered Nurse, and from my earlier years of practicing in hospitals I know that when unexpected injuries and illnesses and injuries happen, families have more than enough to be concerned about without worrying about how they’ll pay for their health care bills.  

And the good news is – for folks who want to enroll -- that there are people here in Cleveland and across the state ready to help them learn more and sign up for coverage.

In fact, here in Ohio, the agency that I direct supports 300 people who are working to assist individuals and families with enrollment.  Those are Ohioans working at more than 200 health center sites across your state, and they’re ready to help people in their communities sign up for health insurance coverage available during the second enrollment period that runs for three months -- from November 15 to February 15 next year.

The work of these and other people in Ohio has resulted in nearly 155,000 Ohioans who already selected a Marketplace plan and over 367,000 Ohioans who enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP coverage.

That’s an achievement.  That is real progress!  Person by person, family by family, Ohio community by Ohio community -- connecting so many people to accessible, affordable insurance coverage.  Those numbers clearly show that the ACA is working here in Ohio.

And families in Ohio are also fortunate -- not only because they’re from the Buckeye State but also because they’re in one of the 26 states that chose to expand Medicaid to cover more of their citizens.  As an aside, next year another state – Pennsylvania -- is going to become number 27.  So now, a majority of states have expanded Medicaid coverage and that’s also important for hospitals and clinics that are able to strengthen their revenues, because they have paying customers getting the health care they offer.

And, I also don’t think we should lose sight of the fact that the benefits of the ACA go well beyond getting people health insurance -- as incredibly important as that is.  In fact, the ACA provides a lot of benefit for people who’ve had health insurance for years.    

For example, thanks to the ACA, 76 million Americans with private insurance gained greater access to preventive health services coverage -- with no out-of-pocket cost-sharing -- and that number includes more than 2.8 million Ohioans.  So the ability to access important health screenings like cancer screenings or immunizations is no longer determined by whether or not one can afford the out-of-pocket cost for those services.  That’s been taken off the table by the ACA.

Also benefiting millions of people who already had health insurance, the ACA required health insurance companies to spend at least 80 cents of the premium dollars they collect on health care or improvements to care, rather than on administrative costs like salaries or marketing.  And, if the insurance companies don’t do that, they have to provide customers a refund.  To date, more than 35,000 Ohioans with private insurance coverage have benefited from $1.2 million in refunds, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.  That’s the ACA -- making every premium dollar count.    

So, these and other features add to the mounting evidence that the ACA is working for all Americans:

  • It’s making health coverage more accessible – millions more people now have insurance through Medicaid expansion and the health care marketplaces.
  • It’s making health insurance more affordable for families through increased competition among insurance plans and premium subsidies tied to income.  These features contributed to nearly 7 in 10 Americans who signed up for Marketplace coverage paying 100 dollars or less – the law has increased affordability;
  • And it’s giving Americans greater access to preventive services and health screenings  that help keep people healthy.

And by the way, this second enrollment period that begins on Saturday isn’t just crucial for people who don’t currently have health insurance coverage.  It’s also important for people who signed up last year and may want to make changes in their coverage for 2015.  People’s lives can change and health plans can change, so we are encouraging those folks to come back to the Marketplace again, update their application on healthcare.gov, and take a look at the options available to make sure they’re enrolled in the plan that best meets their budget and health needs.

For those folks insured in the last enrollment, they need to follow certain steps to re-enroll:

  • First, they need to review their coverage (compare benefits, costs);
  • Update their information on the web (for example, any changes in household income);
  • Compare the plan they have now with others available in the area.  With 25 percent more issuers joining the Marketplace for this enrollment period, people may find more choices this year.  For example, there may be a plan that saves more money, or offers more services or includes more doctors. and
  • They need to re-enroll before December 15.

For newcomers, if they sign up by December 15, their coverage can begin as soon as January 1.  New enrollees will find the application process for insurance to be simpler, faster, and more user-friendly than it has been:

  • It’s simpler because people will enter information just once.
  • And it’s faster.  While the length of time that it takes to fill out the application depends on a consumer’s specific situation, for many people the 76 screens they had to click through during the first enrollment period has been reduced to just 16 clicks.
  • And as I said, it’s now more user-friendly for consumers.  It’s a more streamlined application that has simpler navigation and built-in help along the way.

And, regardless of whether individuals or families in Ohio are renewing their coverage or signing up for the first time, there are different ways they can choose to shop at the Marketplace.  They can:

  • Go to the website and visit HealthCare.gov;
  • Call a 24/7 call center (1-800-318-2596) – where there will be 1,000 additional call center representatives ready to answer questions and provide help;
  • Or, access in-person assistance at health centers and elsewhere, by going to the website localhelp.healthcare.gov and finding a location closest to them.

Well, that’s a fast overview of what’s available starting on November 15 – just two days from now.  

At HRSA, we deeply appreciate the leadership of the Ohio coalition of stakeholders represented here today and your commitment to improving the health of people right here in Cleveland and across the region.  Thanks so much for being here and for the important work you do to help more people in Cleveland get healthy and stay healthy, because at the end of that day that is what this is all about.

 

Date Last Reviewed:  March 2016