And They’re Off: New State-based Marketplace Consumer Services and Supports Launch for OE3

On November 1, health insurance marketplaces officially opened to millions of individuals for 2016 enrollment. Early reports indicate a smooth launch of the open enrollment season, partially due to several new tools to ease enrollment and renewal processes for marketplace consumers.

Smarter Plan Comparison Tools
Recent articles have featured the many new shopping tools available on, the health insurance marketplace used by the 38 states opting to use the federal platform. Similarly, many states operating their own marketplaces are launching a slew of new tools that will enable consumers to make smarter choices across their coverage options. New or enhanced “shop-and-compare” tools in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia will enable consumers to make informed comparisons across their plan choices. Kentucky’s tool allows consumers to enter basic information about health conditions, medications, and frequency of doctors’ visits to generate plan recommendations and costs. Similarly, Connecticut’s tool allows consumers to select from a list of common medical conditions, which they can also rate by severity, to calculate costs. Furthermore, the tool is connected to the state’s all-payer claims database (APCD) to draw in more accurate and real-time data on costs.

Smoother Enrollment and Renewal Experiences
Improved system performance was the focus of several states, including Rhode Island and Vermont, which installed major systems upgrades to fix enrollment glitches from prior years. The District of Columbia has streamlined its online application; reducing the number of screens a consumer will “touch” to complete his or her application from 28 to eight. To ease traffic, which can slow systems, Idaho and Maryland enabled advanced plan browsing, encouraging consumers to educate themselves early about their plan options. California allowed current enrollees to come in as early as October 12 to renew plans, or shop for a new one.

Improved Provider Directories
States are easing consumers’ ability to find information about provider networks through marketplaces plans. The District of Columbia’s new Doctor Directory allows consumers to search for providers by name, location, specialty, and language(s) spoken (English or Spanish). To ensure accuracy of information, the District has also implemented a monthly reporting mechanism to inform both health plans and the marketplace about inconsistencies in Directory information. Massachusetts’ provider search can provide information about which plans include inputted physicians, and acute-care hospitals. In the future, the state is considering adding community health centers, mental health providers, and social workers to the searchable list. Maryland will continue to have its provider search tool managed by the state health information exchange, known as CRISP, which enables real-time information sharing about providers in both commercial and Medicaid coverage.

Enriched Customer Service and Support

Adapting to reach both the remaining uninsured as well as the evolving needs of current consumers, states have revamped their consumer support strategies to serve their target consumers. California is doubling the number of “storefronts” it will open during this enrollment period to provide consumers with in-person support services. Minnesota is tripling the number of enrollment centers it will open to allow consumers to get assistance from certified brokers and navigators as well as piloting a new portal to facilitate the ability of assisters to complete applications on behalf of enrollees. Massachusetts has opened four new walk-in centers, including three at community health centers, to offer expanded face-to-face assistance to applicants. Maryland is launching a pilot that will enable its call center to transfer applicants directly to brokers to complete enrollment—giving consumers access to enrollment experts while reducing the burden on its main call center staff. Washington has updated its online consumer resources including a new enrollment guide and glossary of key terms.

Open enrollment runs from November 1, 2015 through January 31, 2016. Over that time, we will monitor enrollment activity across all marketplaces and share updates about how states are working to bring new consumers to their doors including targeted marketing and use of data and surveys to direct outreach work.