*NAMI Texas Policy Intern, Maeve Hallman, wrote this post:
“As we progress through the final month of open enrollment in the Health Insurance Marketplace, over 4 million people have signed up to receive coverage through HealthCare.gov. These high numbers are due, in large part, to dedicated efforts by community volunteers who assist people with their enrollment. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), organizations can become designated to certify their employees and volunteers as Application Counselors. To become a Certified Application Counselor (CAC), an individual must complete training sessions and pass 2 exams on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) website. Then, CACs provide in-person assistance to individuals and families by helping them understand and complete the Marketplace application and by explaining the different health plan options so that they can make an informed choice about enrollment.
Through the application, an individual learns whether or not he/she and family qualify for a premium tax credit or other cost-sharing reductions that can make the cost of insurance more affordable. Eligibility for and size of this type of financial assistance is based on personal information like household size and income, which CAC organizations like NAMI Texas are required to protect and keep confidential for the people we help to enroll. It’s important to keep in mind that, under the Affordable Care Act, many people are required to have health insurance or pay a financial penalty. Consulting a CAC like NAMI Texas can help you and your family understand what is required of you by law and what types of assistance you may be eligible for.
NAMI Texas became a designated CAC organization because of the improvements that the ACA has made to health care for individuals with mental illness. Before the law went into effect, individuals with mental illness faced a wide gap in insurance coverage. According to 2013 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 20% of individuals with insurance through the individual market had no coverage for mental health services. Additionally, of the 47.5 million uninsured Americans, 25% had a mental health condition or substance abuse disorder or both. Under the ACA, “mental health and substance use disorder services” are included in the 10 Essential Health benefits that all new small group and individual market plans are required to cover beginning in 2014. The ACA also extends the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which requires mental health and substance use disorder coverage to be comparable to general medical and surgical coverage.
NAMI Texas has 2 CACs on staff, and together we have helped approximately 30 people apply for and enroll in health insurance so far. It is very rewarding to know that we are helping individuals and families, many of whom were previously uninsured, get access to affordable health insurance coverage. Our office is one of 484 application assistance centers throughout Texas. Open Enrollment ends on March 31, 2014. So, these organizations and community volunteers will be working in full-force over the next few weeks to help as many people enroll in health insurance as we can. Our office in South Austin is open from 9 am to 6 pm Monday thru Friday and appointments with our CACs can be booked by dialing 512-693-2000. You can also find local help in your community by visiting the following website: https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/”
Prior to the 83rd Texas legislative session, the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health published “A Guide to Understanding Mental Health Systems and Services in Texas 2012.” As they prepare to update the guide for the next legislative session, the Hogg Foundation would appreciate your feedback in order to improve the usefulness of the publication. Please take a moment to complete a brief five question survey provided in the link below by December 20th. Your participation is invaluable to ensuring the guide serves as a beneficial reference tool. To access the electronic version of the guide, please visit http://hoggblogdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/hoggmentalhealthguide.pdf
Take survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/mhguidesurvey
While a majority of Americans think that the number of uninsured children is rising, it actually continues to decline. Medicaid and CHIP are working, and the uninsured rate will fall even faster with full implementation of the ACA. But there are still far too many uninsured children, especially in the South, and our leadership needs to keep working hard on fixing this. Texas saw the largest drop of uninsured kids from 2010 to 2012, but still has more than any other state. Medicaid expansion would have a direct, positive impact on kids in Texas.
NAMI Medicaid expansion report: http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Health_Care_Reform&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=155752
The Health Insurance Marketplace for Certified Application Counselors
What Your Organization Needs to Know
Please Join Ida Kelley, Director, Partner Relations Group, Office of Communications, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a webinar on Thursday, August 12, 2013 at 2:30pm ET
This webinar will provide an overview of the Health Insurance Marketplace, and the role of the Certified Application Counselors to educate consumers and assist with open enrollment. The presentation will focus on what an organization needs to do to become a Certified Application Counselor organization and how to apply. It will also outline the outreach strategy that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is utilizing.
Note: Questions will be taken in English and Spanish
Background: One of the most significant provisions of the ACA is the Marketplace. Starting October 1, 2013 individuals and families will be able to compare and shop for a private health insurance plan and find out if they are eligible for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or a new tax credit that can be used right away to lower monthly health plan premiums. Insurance coverage begins January 2014.
Title: The Health Insurance Marketplace for Certified Application Counselors: What Your Organization Needs to Know
Date: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Time: 2:30pm ET
Space is limited.
Reserve your Webinar seat now at:
Marketplace Stakeholder Teleconference with HHS and CMS
on The Texas Health Insurance Marketplace
Date: September 13, 2013
Time: 1:00 – 2:00 pm (CDT)
Register at: http://cmsregion6himtx3.eventbrite.com
James Randolph Farris, M.D., Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Consortium Administrator, and Marjorie McColl Petty, J.D., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Regional Director, invite partners & stakeholders to the third in a three-part series of teleconferences regarding the Health Insurance Marketplace in Texas. This call is part of the ongoing commitment by HHS and CMS to encourage public participation as it builds a new Health Insurance Marketplace in Texas.
This call is intended specifically for stakeholders in Texas where there will be a Federally Facilitated Marketplace. The call will feature HHS and CMS Dallas Regional Office officials followed by time for Q&A. Speakers are:
• Marjorie McColl Petty, J.D., M.S. Regional Director, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
• James Randolph Farris, M.D., Consortium Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Registration is required. Register at http://cmsregion6himtx3.eventbrite.com.
The re-launched HealthCare.gov and CuidadoDeSalud.gov (for Spanish-speakers) will help Americans understand and select insurance coverage that best suits their needs when open enrollment in the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins in October. By answering a few questions on the site TODAY, you can access a list of coverage options you and your family may qualify for, a personalized checklist to help you get ready to apply, and other helpful information. Individuals and families can also dial 1-800-318-2596 to prepare for open enrollment and ultimately sign up for private health insurance. Please share this information with your contacts around the state of Texas; access to health insurance is critical for the recovery process.
Just this past Wednesday, Florida Governor Rick Scott announced that he would finally accept the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This choice “leaves Texas as the last big-state holdout” as a result of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s strong opposition against cooperation for expansion. However, since Florida was granted permission to run its program differently, State Representative Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) has been working with House colleagues to come up with a compromise that both Texans and the federal government could agree on. Expansion in Texas could provide benefits and services to millions of uninsured Texans, including those with mental illnesses. Hopefully a sensible solution on Medicaid expansion can be reached soon in Texas.