By Troy Zimmerman, VP Government Relations, National Kidney Foundation
Open enrollment for the new Health Insurance Marketplaces—also known as the Exchanges—is less than a month away. Beginning October 1, people without health insurance will be able to enroll in a private insurance plan or may be able to enroll in Medicaid in states that have expanded eligibility. Some individuals may qualify for tax credits and subsidies to help cover their monthly premiums and lower their out-of-pocket expenses. Coverage under an affordable health insurance plan is the first step in making sure that millions of Americans with kidney disease and those at risk for kidney disease have regular access to the health care they need. As a result, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) has been working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to make sure that the uninsured are aware of the new options for health insurance beginning October 1, 2013.
On Friday, July 19, 2013, I participated in a meeting with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to discuss the federal government’s outreach to enroll individuals for coverage under the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Marketplaces. Approximately a dozen executives from other health organizations were also in attendance. HHS has a key role educating and enrolling beneficiaries, particularly in states with a federally run program (other states have elected to operate their Marketplace programs directly). Secretary Sebelius asked patient organizations to assist with outreach to help make more people aware of their new health insurance options. Recognizing that health insurance represents people’s ticket to accessing healthcare, NKF has taken many steps to ensure that our constituency is aware of these new options.
Recently, NKF became an HHS Champion for Coverage pledging our support to help those without health insurance learn about their new options. The NKF of llinois will directly help people in Illinois enroll in coverage using a grant it received from the United Way. NKF of Illinois will have members of its staff undergo training and become certified application counselors so they can help people sign up for coverage. Our other local divisions and affiliates will provide information and resources at NKF KEEP Healthy events to direct patients to learn more about their coverage options. In addition, the NKF Cares hotline is equipped to direct uninsured patients calling from all 50 states on where to go to enroll in coverage.
At the conclusion of my meeting, Secretary Sebelius also asked participants to share compelling patient stories, where possible, as we learn of them through our own outreach. If you are uninsured and expect to benefit from coverage under the Medicaid expansion or the new Health Insurance Marketplaces please share your story with us by emailing us. If you would like to learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplaces and the Medicaid expansion you can visit our blog post on the subject or email us .
Also, there is no need to wait until October 1st to start the enrollment process. You can visit www.healthcare.gov now and begin registering online by providing your personal information. This will save you time come October 1st when you will be able to view all of your health insurance options and apply for coverage.