Report: ObamaCare assisters 'key' to 2015 enrollment

Navigators and assisters who educated consumers about health insurance options during ObamaCare’s first enrollment period will likely continue to play a “key role” according to a new report.

An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation says assister programs helped educate 10.6 million people about their health insurance options but in some cases the programs had to turn people away because they didn’t have the resources to meet demand.

During the 2014 enrollment period, 12 percent of assisters said demand for their services far outpaced their abilities. Matters only got worse by late March when 24 percent of assisters said they couldn’t meet demand.

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“Public understanding of the ACA [Affordable Care Act] remains limited. If the first wave of enrollment in 2014 was comprised of those consumers who were the most resourceful and motivated to seek coverage, then investment in consumer assistance will be all the more key in the year to come,” said authors of the report.

Assister programs include navigators, in-person assisters, certified application counselors and others who are tasked with educating consumers about the federal and state marketplaces.

Assisters have come under scrutiny from GOP lawmakers who have questioned their effectiveness and their ability to safeguard consumer information.

However, the Obama administration has touted them as a reason why 8 million people have so far signed up for insurance through the new marketplaces.

Last month, the president praised healthcare assisters and navigators during a conference and urged them to keep on with their work.

“I could not be more grateful to you for all you're doing to help Americans get covered, but we cannot let our guard down now,” he said. “As we look towards 2015, we need you to keep telling your stories, keep spreading the word, keep standing up for folks trying to get covered because the other side has billionaires funding campaigns to scare the very people the Affordable Care Act would help.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has already said it will spend at least $60 million on navigators during the upcoming enrollment period.