Certified Navigators “Optimistic” about Open Enrollment

Increased Number of Enrollment Events, Locations, and Staff Improve Consumer Experience in the Central Region

BALTIMORE (Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2014)—As Maryland prepares to launch its new health insurance marketplace, navigators and assistors across the state are getting hands-on training with the new system. Carrie Durham, Director of the Connector Program at HealthCare Access Maryland (HCAM), said that, so far, her team of 52 navigators and assistors found the new website “intuitive and user-friendly.” HCAM and its 10 local partners, charged with helping consumers in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County purchase qualified health plans, will deploy 100 certified navigators and assistors during open enrollment. Durham said, “We are ready, and we are optimistic.”

An improved consumer experience with the marketplace will begin with an opportunity for anonymous browsing starting November 9. On the first day of anonymous browsing, HCAM navigators will be on hand at the organization’s new office in Reisterstown to help consumers explore their options and navigate the new marketplace. All HCAM offices will be open to assists browsers November 10–14 (closed on Nov. 11 for Veterans Day).

Consumers in the central region can also look forward to increased access to navigators this year. “Research on the nation’s first open enrollment period—which was corroborated by our on-the-ground experience—shows that consumers want to sit down with a patient, knowledgeable person to explore health insurance options,” said Kathleen Westcoat, President and CEO of HealthCare Access Maryland.

In addition to its main office in Baltimore City, HCAM opened two new satellite offices this year, one in Baltimore County and one in Anne Arundel County. The county sites will be open until 7 p.m. on weekdays, and until 4 p.m. on Saturdays. In all, consumers will be able to get help from navigators at 15 HCAM sites in Baltimore City, 10 sites in Baltimore County, and 9 sites in Anne Arundel County. When HCAM partner sites are included, consumers can enroll at 56 sites across the three counties.

HCAM has also upped the number of large-scale enrollment fairs from three events held last year to five this year. “Fairs were popular last year,” Westcoat said. “Consumers liked the community feel of enrollment events, so this year we’re having more of them, and we’re bringing them to all three central region counties.”

In addition, HCAM doubled the number of staff at its call center, which will reduce wait time for callers. HCAM also implemented a new electronic record-keeping system that will allow call center staff to book appointments for callers at any of HCAM’s sites. Spanish-speaking navigators are available again this year.

Westcoat said, “We learned a lot from the first year of open enrollment. This year, we know more about what to expect, so we are better equipped and better prepared. People want and need health insurance, and we are looking forward to helping them get covered.”

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