The Affordable Care Act
Monday, January 7th, 2019
Nearly 90 percent of Mississippians are covered by health insurance through employer plans, private resources, or public programs. Despite being covered and having due access to healthcare, few of them are likely to fully understand their benefits. Experts estimate that the majority of adults in the state have basic or below basic understanding of health information including health insurance documents and insurance cost-sharing calculations. Mississippians aren’t alone; when asked, only 4% of Americans could correctly identify four key terms of common insurance plans. Poor health insurance literacy may contribute to some in Mississippi going uninsured or delaying their own healthcare.
For individuals and households not eligible for Medicaid but also not able to afford insurance on their own or access it through an employer plan, the Healthcare Marketplace is the only option for getting a qualified health plan thanks to income-based financial subsidies on plans purchased there. For the past three coverage years, more than 90 percent of the 300,000-plus Mississippians purchasing plans through the Marketplace have qualified for and received financial assistance for their healthcare coverage. Not only do most marketplace applicants in Mississippi qualify for financial assistance, some actually qualify for more substantial assistance, a fact they may only have learned through the process of shopping for a plan with the assistance of a Navigator.
The Affordable Care Act, which established the Marketplace, also provides funding for direct assistance to consumers in choosing a plan and navigate the process on online enrollment. Navigator programs assist people who have gone uninsured for long periods and others who have low health insurance literacy (often the sick, young, low-income, minority or less educated). Seventy-nine percent of Navigator programs nationally report that consumers seek assistance because they lack confidence in their ability to apply on their own, while 77 percent believe consumers come to them because they need help understanding their plan choices.
Some at the federal level have questioned the need for marketing and navigator assistance now that the ACA and the marketplace have survived rounds of major political and policy tests at the federal level. However, studies have shown that substantial spending for marketing and awareness raising can maintain and even increase enrollment in the marketplace, which in turn can stabilize costs.
Further, the need for navigators still exists for other reasons. More knowledgeable insurance enrollees will make better choices about the coverage plan they need, providers who take their insurance, and how to make better use of their benefits like preventive care available with no cost-sharing—all outcomes that support good health and keep individual or employer costs down.
For more information about what Mississippians know about the Affordable Care Act and how they feel about insurance, see the Center’s most recent work on the topic.
*Figures quoted were derived from calculations of data provided in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Public Use Files available at the in-text link.