I was not sure what to expect when Open Enrollment began. As the newest Health Coverage Guide (HCG) with Tri-County Health Network (TCHNetwork), all I could think of were the horror stories from last year’s enrollment period. Hours on hold with Connect for Health Colorado fixing technical issues, dealing with aggravated clients, lost usernames and passwords, the list goes on. Thinking back to this, I was pretty nervous about how I would navigate all of the issues, while still keeping up with all of the incoming clients before the deadline.
The 2015 Open Enrollment process began on November 1st with the primary deadline for coverage ending December 15th. Taking on clients from the previous year and immediately cold calling them to set up appointments. Luckily, it started slowly, each day adding appointments until my schedule was full. With each passing enrollment, I began truly understanding the nuances of the application and the confusing enrollment process.
Looking back on the last few weeks, it is easy to see how important Health Coverage Guides are to the community. With so much confusion in the health enrollment process, many people unknowingly complete the application incorrectly. Giving them a wrongly determined Premium Tax Credit (if they qualify), ultimately making them pay back the credits they were not qualified to receive at the end of the year. Talk about a shocking and scary bill! In addition to correctly doing the application, I was often asked to explain health insurance definitions and help answer their many questions. What are the differences between HMO and PPO? Is my tax credit given to me monthly or returned to me as a whole at the end of the year? How do I add or remove someone from my plan? My income went up what do I have to do? Almost everyone has questions and sometimes I had to brainstorm with my colleagues as some situations are very unique and not covered in a leaners manual. To say that the enrollment process is a team effort is definitely selling it short.
There were many times I had to refer my clients to the local independent healthcare broker, Brett Borup for further assistance. Not only was Brett able to help troubleshoot enrollment glitches and answer questions, his knowledge of the plans helped people receive the best possible plan for themselves or their family. Once the application was complete and they understood their plan options, Brett walked the client through the nuances of each plan, helping them choose the option that would make them the healthiest and (generally) happiest for 2016. Without the patience and guidance from our team of enrollment experts, I certainly would have been as confused and stuck as many of my clients. I am lucky to have been working alongside a great team this year and happy that I started in 2015 opposed to 2014!
Just remember, when in doubt call a Health Coverage Guide!
By Erich Lange, Community Engagement Specialist