Healthcare has taken center stage in national media lately, thanks in large part to uncertainty over the upcoming enrollment season for 2018. But the reality is that no new laws have been passed yet, nor does it seem likely that anything will now that a recent last-ditch effort by Republican lawmakers failed to garner sufficient support.
Still, political back-and-forth has done little to quell the anxiety of millions of Americans who rely on health insurance and who want to know what changes they can expect for next year. Some programs are undergoing alterations already, including the “Navigator” program. What is the Navigator program, and what does it mean for you? Here’s a look at some changes coming for the 2018 enrollment season when it comes to advertising – and how they might affect you.
What is the Navigator Program?
The Navigator program is essentially a provision included in the Affordable Care Act that is designed to help consumers and small businesses better understand the health insurance options available to them. Within the individual health insurance marketplaces, individuals and businesses should be able to easily understand the coverage options that are available to them in their state. In addition, it shouldn’t be difficult to find affordable options within the marketplace itself. The Navigator program is designed to be self-funded by using operating dollars coming from the marketplace.
When this program was first introduced, two types of navigators were provided for under the law. The first involves the establishment of a community-based organization focused solely on the consumer. It’s a nonprofit organization that aims to ensure consumers are armed with the knowledge they need to understand the healthcare options available to them under the ACA.
The second type of navigator is designed to encompass a trade association, licensed insurance agent or broker. This entity or person is not compensated for his or her role in selling health insurance, which prevents conflicts of interest from interfering with the job. The overarching goal is for consumers and small business to receive unbiased and informed advice from navigators in their areas.
What’s New for 2018?
In an effort to further raise awareness of the health insurance marketplace – which some people still aren’t familiar with – there will be some changes to the Navigator program in 2018. For starters, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will spend roughly $10 million to better educate both new and returning marketplace enrollees. CMS wants to make sure that people have the information they need to make a more informed decision about which type of coverage is best for them, especially in light of all the upheaval over healthcare in recent months.
Individual consumers should begin to see more efforts aimed at providing them with information about their coverage options. It’s already been announced that information will be relayed to the public via a variety of digital media outlets, including, at minimum, a combination of email and text messages.
There will also be a stronger push on the part of the Navigator program to initiate a public relations campaign to better serve the needs of individual consumers and small businesses. Much of the financial cost that navigators will incur in 2018 will be covered by federal funding using a set formula based on enrollment goals. This is to ensure better accountability and to make certain that navigators are upholding the original intent of the program.
Open Enrollment Advertising for 2018
Upcoming enrollment for the 2018 plan year will run from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017. This is a shortened period in comparison to recent years, and Navigators are now tasked with the responsibility of promoting these dates to the public. Many have already begun to do so by sending out emails and text messages to individual consumers across the country. The goal now is to help explain the reduced number of healthcare options available in many regions and help customers make a more informed decision about health insurance.
It’s important to note that exchange customers will still have a number of options when it comes to signing up for coverage in 2018, including online support, call centers, insurance agents and brokers. The Navigator program will help direct consumers to a provider of their choosing based on their needs.
Advertising will be a big push this year in order to compensate for a lot of concern and misinformation being circulated in the current political landscape. There are still options for health insurance that need to be considered, and the Navigator program seeks to ensure that customers get the information that they need regardless of what’s going on in Washington at the moment.