Health Advocacy Group Aims to Close Patient ACA Knowledge Gap
A new suite of tools from the National Health Council will help patients estimate their out-of-pocket insurance costs and allow them to share their experience of signing up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Enrollment in healthcare plans created under the Affordable Care Act has been trending up since the botched HealthCare.gov launch last fall, with the total number of signups hitting 4 million earlier this week, according to the Obama administration. But many consumers are still confused about how much they’ll pay for coverage or what plan makes the most sense for their healthcare needs.
That’s where the National Health Council decided to step in and help.
NHC, a patient advocacy group whose core membership includes major health-related organizations like the American Cancer Society and American Diabetes Association, recently unveiled a new tool that it said will help patients understand their out-of-pocket healthcare costs as they shop for coverage through a state or federal marketplace.
“We realized that there were some real information gaps,” said NHC CEO Myrl Weinberg. “Our recent analysis shows that people are enrolling in lower-premium plans, but, for people with complex conditions, those plans may not be the most cost-effective for them.”
The healthcare cost calculator, part of NHC’s Putting Patients First suite of resources, lets patients supply information related to healthcare provider visits, medication use, and hospital visits to determine what their out-of-pocket expenses would look like under different plans available to them. Based on that information, the site suggests the best plan for the patient.
“They’re able to input their specific healthcare needs in a few categories that we know are the most important to people with one or more chronic conditions,” Weinberg said. “What we’re trying to do is give them a much deeper understanding based on their individual needs so that they’ll have a better idea of what they really should be thinking about before they select an insurance plan.”
The site also has an area where patients can share their healthcare signup stories, which Weinberg said will help NHC make recommendations to the state exchanges and federal government on how to improve the marketplaces and make them more accessible and easier to use.
In the month since the tool launched, more than 3,000 people have visited the site, Weinberg said, and roughly 52 percent have used the calculator. While she expects traffic to increase in the coming months, NHC’s goal is to see similar tools incorporated on the federal and state marketplace websites—the group has already held meetings with its members and various state- and federal-level offices to begin sharing the tool.
“We’re really just looking to make a difference and help people better understand how these plans work,” she said. “And we have to follow through with that. Even though we created the tool, we have to think, ‘What’s the best way to make this tool available, successful, and useful to the people we’re trying to serve?’”