More than 28,000 outreach workers helped about 10.6 million Americans learn about health insurance options during the 2014 Obamacare open enrollment period, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Each worker assisted an average of nearly 400 individuals.
“I was personally struck by the extent of the consumer assistance infrastructure that's been built,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation and an author of the report. “I thought that was impressive.”
There was a significant disparity, however, in outreach efforts in states running their own exchange versus those that relied on the federal exchange. In the 16 states and the District of Columbia that decided to operate their own exchanges, 325 people received assistance for every 1,000 uninsured individuals. In contrast, only 162 individuals per 1,000 uninsured people received assistance in the 29 states that relied on the federal marketplace. The remaining five states, which partnered with the feds, fell in the middle: 276 individuals received assistance per 1,000 uninsured.
The differences largely reflect that there were more navigators and other enrollment assisters on the ground in states running their own exchanges, which received much more federal funding for assistance programs.
States with their own marketplaces had 8.7 assisters per 10,000 uninsured—or nearly double the number of workers involved in outreach efforts in states that relied on the federal exchange, according to the Kaiser study.
More than 80% of the outreach programs Kaiser surveyed reported that most consumers who sought help did not understand the healthcare reform law or were confused by the choices available.