Affordable Care Act: One Year to Go

Jan 01, 2013

By Abigail Newcomer and Elizabeth Lower-Basch

Happy New Year!

In one year, many of the provisions of health care reform go into effect and tens of millions of individuals and families who have been priced out of the health insurance market will be able to receive affordable coverage, either through Medicaid expansions or tax subsidies to help pay premiums for private insurance. Health care exchanges will become one-stop portals for comparing insurance options and applying for health care benefits.  These online portals could also present an opportunity for human service programs to connect with families for whom affording health care is not the only financial challenge. Connecting families to both health care and other benefits, such as nutritional assistance and the earned income tax credit, would keep them healthier and improve opportunities for children.

However, the full potential of health care reform to improve the health and well-being of millions of people will not be met if we do not work together to make sure people know that they may be eligible for coverage and how to apply.

To make sure that we all wake up on January 1, 2014 without regret, we propose the following New Year's resolutions to work together over the next year to spread the word and reduce barriers to accessing coverage:

  • Resolution #1: Find the newly eligible individuals. The people who could receive health coverage are all around you. They are parents of young children; students in community colleges and other institutions; taxes filers doing their taxes at VITA sites; and community members utilizing community, state and county resources. Make sure to provide information about their health insurance options wherever they are.
  • Resolution #2: Find the bridge organizations. Under health care reform, organizations can be funded to be "navigators" or "in-person assisters" to help people enroll in health insurance. Make sure to include organizations with experience in working with low-income and vulnerable populations in this opportunity.
  • Resolution #3: Pay attention to the choices being made in your state. You don't need to be an expert on all the details of health care reform to weigh in on the key choices that will determine how many people are helped. In particular, encourage your state to:
  1. Take up the Medicaid expansion. Without it, there will be a gap in coverage for those who can least afford to buy coverage on their own
  2. Develop consumer-friendly enrollment processes, and use existing institutions and systems to coordinate a broad-based effort to inform people about new coverage options.
  3. Build the foundation for including other important public programs in their process of enrolling individuals in public health programs like CHIP and Medicaid in the future.

To help you meet these resolutions, find the organizations in your state that are engaged in this process and find out how you can help. On outreach, you can do this through Enroll America, a national nonprofit that exists to assist individuals in identifying and obtaining health coverage options. On state advocacy, a great organization to start with is Families USA.

Cheers to a healthier nation.

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