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New Survey Examines Assistance Provided to Consumers During Second Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment

A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey of insurance brokers and assistance programs examines the help they provided to consumers during the 2015 open enrollment period for Affordable Care Act coverage.

The 2015 Survey of Health Insurance Marketplace Assister Programs and Brokers provides estimates of the number of people helped and the number and type of assister programs, while offering an in-depth look at assisters’ assessments of the enrollment process in the second year of the ACA marketplaces. For the first time this year, the survey also included health insurance brokers who helped people apply for non-group coverage in an ACA marketplace.

Survey findings include:

  • More than 4,600 assister programs employing 30,400 full-time staff and volunteers provided help for consumers during 2015 open enrollment, a slight increase (7%) from the previous year.
  • Marketplace navigators and other assisters say they helped an estimated 5.9 million people during the sign-up period that ran from Nov. 15, 2014 through Feb. 15. Returning assister programs, which comprised 91 percent of responding programs, helped about 5.8 million of those, which they say is a decrease of about 19 percent from 2014. A number of factors may have contributed to the drop in consumers seeking assistance: The open enrollment period in the second year of the ACA marketplaces was half as long as it was in the first year; marketplace websites worked better; and more than 2 million returning enrollees auto-renewed their health coverage for 2015.
  • Compared to the prior year, a larger share of assister programs report being able to meet consumer needs in 2015: 81 percent said their capacity was equal to demand or they could have helped more people, compared with 63 percent in 2014. Overall, most assister programs (82%) report that open enrollment for 2015 went somewhat or much better than the prior year.
  • In between enrollment periods, returning assister programs helped an estimated 630,000 consumers apply for coverage through special enrollment periods; 290,000 consumers report mid-year changes to an ACA marketplace; and nearly 800,000 consumers resolve post-enrollment problems.
  • Brokers and assister programs appeared to serve somewhat different populations, with brokers less likely to serve Latinos, people who were uninsured, and consumers with incomes low enough to be eligible for Medicaid.
  • Most (66%) brokers say it takes more time to sell a non-group policy in 2015 compared to before the marketplaces launched in 2014. More than half (57%) say revenue per policy has decreased, while six in 10 (60%) brokers say they sell more policies now than before 2014.
  • Brokers are divided on whether they’re receiving more overall commission revenue now than before ACA implementation: 40 percent say their revenue increased, 40 percent say it decreased, and 20 percent say it stayed about the same.
METHODOLOGY

The survey was designed and analyzed by researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation and was administered online from March 31, 2015 through May 13, 2015 by Davis Research. Assister programs nationwide were surveyed, including navigators, federally qualified health centers, certified application counselors, and other recognized programs; 713 out of 4,680 programs responded. In addition, a sample of 9,700 brokers nationwide was surveyed and 662 responded. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for both the assister program and broker full sample. For results based on assister program subgroups, the margin of sampling error is higher.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.