Affordable Care Act
Open enrollment begins October 1
NASW members urged to educate clients and communities about new health
By Rena Malai, News staff
The major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which aims to
ensure that all Americans have health insurance, will go into effect Jan. 1.
The next significant step in implementing the law is the open enrollment
process for health care coverage, which begins Oct. 1.
Open enrollment is an opportunity for people without insurance
to explore different options and determine which is right for them. Coverage
begins on Jan. 1 for new enrollees.
“Consumers will have many avenues for exploring coverage
options,” NASW Senior Practice Associate Stacy Collins said.
At the federal level, the “health insurance marketplace”
is a portal where individual and families can determine their eligibility for
different health insurance programs, including Medicaid, the Children’s Health
Insurance Program and qualified health plans within their states, Collins said.
“The Marketplace portal is a great tool for people to review
and compare insurance plans and determine the best fit, based on their needs
and budgets,” Collins said, adding that many people will qualify for federal
tax subsidies to purchase plans on the health insurance marketplace, depending
on their incomes.
Each state will also have its own enrollment system, using
health insurance navigators and application counselors, to assist consumers in
enrolling in coverage. In addition, many states will have their own insurance marketplace
“Whether they work in health care and behavioral health
settings, child welfare departments, social service agencies, criminal justice,
academia, or private practice, all social workers will encounter people who are
uninsured,” Collins said. “Therefore, social workers need to understand the ACA
There are a variety of resources to help social workers become
familiar with and promote the enrollment process. Marketplace.cms.gov has
enrollment resources for professionals, including posters, fact sheets, website
widgets, informational videos, and brochures published in multiple languages.
Other websites that offer social workers open enrollment resources include
www.enrollamerica.org and www.familiesusa.org.
NASW also is participating, under the leadership of the
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, on the Criminal
Justice and the Mental Health/Substance Abuse Affordable Care Act Enrollment
Coalitions, said Mel Wilson, manager of NASW’s Department of Social Justice and
Human Rights. The coalitions comprise a number of national criminal justice and
behavioral health provider organizations, national associations and government
agencies that have the capacity to disseminate detailed ACA enrollment information
to a large number of professionals, he said.
The key objective for SAMHSA, NASW and other coalition members
is to ensure that service providers who have direct contact with uninsured
behavioral health and criminal justice clients are well informed about the
benefits of the ACA, and encourage their clients to apply for ACA benefits
beginning Oct. 1, Wilson said.
“The primary vehicle for disseminating information is via an
ACA enrollment tool kit, which was developed by SAMHSA and reviewed by coalition
members, including NASW,” he said. “The tool kit contains comprehensive details
about ACA eligibility, the range of benefits available to the target
population, and the enrollment process, among other information.
The tool kit will be available for dissemination by coalition
members and was expected to be posted on healthcare.gov by mid-August.
NASW members can use the material from all of these sites to
educate themselves on open enrollment and get the necessary information out to
those currently uninsured, helping them as necessary with the process to get
health care coverage.
For more information on the ACA, please see these NASW
Practice Department resources:
In other ACA news:
- NASW Senior Practice Associate Stacy Collins presented at the
National Association of Perinatal Social Workers conference in May to update
social workers on health care reform issues as they relate to perinatal
Collins discussed health reform
benefits for mothers and babies, including coverage for young mothers up to the
age of 26 on their parents’ health insurance plans, and broadening coverage for
younger working mothers who do not qualify for Medicaid. The presentation took
place in Baltimore.
Collins also participated on a health
reform panel in June, hosted by NASW’s New York City Chapter and the Silberman
School of Social Work at Hunter College in Manhattan. She discussed the
national perspective on the Affordable Care Act and the implications for social
workers and the populations they serve.
- NASW-California Executive Director Janlee Wong gave a
presentation in May for the Association of Oncology Social Work on the basics
of the ACA, its current status and progress, and its implications for social
Wong said attendees expressed concern
about the decision by many states not to set up a health care exchange and
expand Medicaid. About 27 states are defaulting to the federal government to
set up an exchange for them, and about 24 states are moving to expand Medicaid
under the ACA, Wong said.
He advised social workers to check
with their exchanges for the available health care plans and to learn the
details of coverage for those plans.
“Social workers were given
information on advocacy regarding the expansion of Medicaid in their state,” he
said. Oncology social workers were also interested in the details of what the
ACA will cover as far as rehab cancer services in exchange plans. The
presentation took place in San Diego.
HHS announces $67 million in Navigator grants
The Tennessee Primary Care Association in Brentwood, Tenn.,
recently received $800,000 as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services grant awards to 105 navigator applicants. NASW member Kathy
Wood-Dobbins is CEO of TPCA, which unites health centers and other care
providers in an effort to improve access for the medically underserved in the
On Aug. 15, HHS announced a total of $67 million in grant
money to the 105 navigator applicants, who will use the funds to serve as
in-person resources for Americans who want additional assistance in shopping
for and enrolling in plans in the health insurance marketplace beginning this
Navigators will be among the many resources available to help
consumers understand their coverage options in the marketplace, HHS Secretary
Kathleen Sebelius says in the release. “A network of volunteers on the ground
in every state — health care providers, business leaders, faith leaders,
community groups, advocates, and local elected officials — can help spread the
word and encourage their neighbors to get enrolled,” Sebelius said.
Wood-Dobbins said her organization is thrilled to be able to
provide navigation resources “not only to patients who already utilize
Tennessee’s community health centers, but also to others in the surrounding
communities and counties who will be signing up for health insurance — many
possibly for the first time.”
“The navigators will work to put a familiar face on what
might be considered a complex and unfamiliar process, she said, and will help
people understand all the options available to them.”
From September 2013 NASW News. © 2013 National
Association of Social Workers. All Rights Reserved. NASW News
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