Next ACA open enrollment begins Nov. 15

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Social workers can aid millions of Americans in signing up for health care coverage as the next open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace, under the Affordable Care Act, takes place Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, 2015.

NASW and other social work organizations are partnering with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, to develop a toolkit for social workers on what they need to know about connecting people to coverage.

“We are enthusiastic to be partnering with NASW and see huge potential for our collaboration,” said Angelica Gutierrez, a social worker and special assistant at the CMS Office of Communications, Partner Relations Group.

Vulnerable populations that social workers serve stand to benefit the most from having health coverage since many will qualify for cost-reduction assistance that can make insurance affordable, Gutierrez said.

Many of the people currently uninsured come in contact with social workers, such as ethnic minorities, immigrants, those under age 35, and those with limited incomes.

“Many of you also work with clients living in complex situations, such as homelessness, incarceration, immigration, etc.,” Gutierrez said, “so we’re striving to provide key information about health coverage eligibility options available for clients with some unique life circumstances.”

Social workers play an important role in the Marketplace (part of the ACA) enrollment process because they have the skills to meet people where they are, listen to concerns, address fears and dispel myths, she said. They are also vital to building partnerships with neighborhood agencies and inspiring grassroots efforts.

Gutierrez noted that while social workers do not need to become experts in understanding the ACA, they need to be aware of the resources that can help clients in the enrollment process.

“When you are informed, you can confidently empower your clients and community with the information they need to make an informed decision about their health coverage,” she said.

While the social work toolkit was not available at press time, there are other resources for social workers available now.

One way agencies can help CMS enroll consumers is by becoming a Certified Application Counselor, or CAC, organization.

At Marketplace.cms.gov, under “About Assister Programs,” click on the Certified Application Counselor link to learn more about becoming a CAC organization.

Social workers can also refer clients to local, in-person assistance by visiting localhelp.healthcare.gov. Questions about the CAC program, or other ways to partner with CMS, should be emailed to partnership@cms.hhs.gov.

Gutierrez said there is also a great need to educate those who are newly enrolled on how to use their benefits and access preventive services to manage chronic disease.

To help with this effort, CMS’s new initiative, From Coverage to Care (Marketplace.cms.gov/c2c) features a community toolkit, educational modules, video vignettes and more that social workers can use to assist clients.

CMS will host an upcoming webinar with NASW, the Council on Social Work Education and the Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care to explain the process for social work practitioners and students to become Certified Application Counselors.

From the October 2014 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story after logging in.

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