For 10 years, Georgia state leaders have blocked access to affordable health coverage via Medicaid to almost 600,000 Georgians, Knetta Adkins with Georgians for a Healthy Future said last month.
For the past several years, GHF, Georgia’s enrollment assisters, and other enrollment stakeholders have spent this season reflecting on our work during the preceding open enrollment period and celebrating the accomplishments in connecting people to coverage all over the state of Georgia. But with all of the news about the very real threats to the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid in the past several weeks, the impressive work of Georgia’s enrollment assistance community has been overlooked this year. This year’s open enrollment period was unique, in that it spanned Presidential administrations and is the first OEP in which assisters did not have the dedicated support of the federal government. Obstacles and roadblocks were constructed towards the end of OE4 that made enrolling consumers in coverage more difficult than usual, and that made the work of enrollment assisters all the more critical. Despite the hindrances and because of the long hours and dedication of Georgia’s enrollment assisters, 493,880 Georgians selected insurance plans through the Marketplace. While this number may seem disappointing when compared to OE3’s 587,845 plan selections, it is a big victory won in an environment of confusion and opposition by clear-eyed assisters for the Georgians they serve. Thank you to all of the assisters across the state that contributed to the success of OE4!
The work of enrollment assisters will only grow in importance in the coming year. In the short term, the stories of our state’s enrollers and the Georgians that they connect to coverage are the most powerful tool available to fight the repeal of the ACA and cuts to Medicaid. If repeal is held off, the new administration has made it clear that consumers will not be prioritized. The newly proposed rules from CMS will make it harder for consumers to enroll or to afford Marketplace coverage, and Georgians will need help navigating the procedures. Community outreach will be necessary to calm worried or confused consumers who do not know how they are impacted. Partnerships with the media and community groups will be instrumental in informing Georgians about how and when to enroll, and what coverage options they have available to them. All of this, and the administration has not said what financial or technical support it will offer enrollment assister programs or assisters going forward.
In this year’s uncertain and shifting health policy climate, enrollment assisters are a trusted resource valued by Georgians and their communities, and will remain essential to the success and endurance of the ACA. Thank you to all of Georgia’s enrollment assisters! We have enjoyed working with you over the past four open enrollment periods and look forward to many more.