October 1, 2013. Remember that date. Write it down. Commit it to memory. Why? Because that’s when health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will become available across the country and states will begin signing people up for health insurance. Efforts are already under way to provide consumers with greater accessibility through online technology, including a web portal that allows people to choose their insurance and get information on affordability. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) just relaunched its health reform website to provide resources that make us better consumers as we shop for health insurance.
The relaunch of www.healthcare.gov couldn’t come at a better time. An April 2013 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that 42% of Americans are unaware that the ACA is still law. Some of that confusion may be due to the politics of the ACA. Nonetheless, if the Kaiser Poll results are any indication, there is a lot of work ahead to raise awareness of the law and help those who are eligible enroll—especially Latinos.
So why all the hoopla about the revamped portal? Well, the look and feel is consumer-focused as opposed to the typical government site, meaning that the new portal is something you can easily navigate from any desktop computer, smartphone, or other mobile device. It is educational in nature, providing information on the new marketplaces, preexisting conditions, videos, and resources to prepare for open enrollment. It also has a function that allows you to scroll over a word for clarification on its meaning. Don’t know what a premium or deductible is? Just scroll over to learn more. And while you can’t apply for insurance just yet, by October consumers will be able to create accounts, complete an online application, and shop for qualified health plans.
If you think the website looks good, just wait—HHS has told us to expect customer service standards that are just as strong. They hope to reach callers within two minutes of dialing, and for Latinos who prefer service in Spanish, there will be an accessible customer service line and chat features. In fact, the new portal will have a toll-free number with assistance available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in 150 languages. The bottom of the homepage also provides links in 13 languages that direct users to the call center should questions arise. HHS is simultaneously relaunching www.cuidadodesalud.gov, a Spanish-language site, to match the new consumer face of www.healthcare.gov.
Head on over to www.healthcare.gov and see for yourself. There are bound to be questions, confusion, and glitches right now, but take some time to see what information you need and get ready for open enrollment beginning October 1. This is a new era in health care, and we’re hoping that the new face of it is as consumer-friendly as possible to help you make the best decision for you and your family.