Courtesy of DC Health Link
**FILE** Courtesy of DC Health Link

If you’ve been scrambling to sign up for health insurance and think you may have missed the end of the enrollment, don’t panic because officials at DC Health Link extended the enrollment five days. So the end of enrollment will be Wednesday, Feb. 5 at midnight.

“The federal government only has six weeks for people to enroll, which isn’t enough time,” said Mila Kofman, executive director of the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority (DCHBX). “People need time to decide, so we’ve extended the enrollment period. As the enrollment period comes to a close there are long wait times and people are stressed, anxious.

“We have done [extended enrollment] every year,” Kofman said. “It’s the right thing to do for our consumers.”

The DCHBX is a private-public partnership responsible for the District of Columbia’s Affordable Care Act online health insurance marketplace, DC Health Link.

Kofman said the Health Benefit Exchange remains strong in the District of Columbia despite repeated efforts by Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare. In 2019, she said, 22,700 residents made plan selections, while 20,360 people paid for health coverage. HBX staff have had to be innovative and inventive to continue to mitigate local protections and safeguard key consumer protections in the face of challenges from Congress, the White House and the courts.

“After the last time Congress tried to repeal the ACA, they haven’t tried again,” Kofman said. “But some state attorneys general have said the ACA is unconstitutional. It could end up in the US Supreme Court in 2021.

“It’s dangerous and risky with people losing health care” said Kofman, who has headed the agency since 2013. “It would be bad for the nation and for people who need private insurance. We have done some things to mitigate local consumer protection. For example, we have to take everyone who applies. One challenge is that if the ACA is struck down, what happens with Medicare expansions or premium care reductions? We need that partnership with the federal government, but there are lots of repercussions. People would lose tax credits and they are consequences for small businesses.”

Kofman spoke of the range of campaigns that have been developed to educate the public about DC Health Link and make it as easy as possible for people to shop and enroll in quality, affordable health insurance through DC Health Link.

The outreach mantra is to “reach people where they live, work, shop, play and pray,” she said.

In the past few years, HBX has implemented several creative strategies and public education campaigns to increase public awareness of DC Health Link and its mission in both the individual and families and small business marketplaces.

For example, HBX partnered with community leaders and groups to focus on education campaigns that address the District’s diverse populations including Latinos, Asian, Pacific Islanders, African Americans, LGBTQ, Young Invincibles, Millennials and the faith-based communities. She said HBX staff have put a special emphasis on special enrollment and outreach at events held at bar crawls, laundromats, ballgames, barber shops and beauty salons, bars and clubs, community meetings and festivals such as the Ward 7 Community Festival and Barry Farms Health, Wellness, and Back to School Festival.

Other events included the Saturday afternoon Brunch Bounce to reach millennials, “Knock-Knock” door-to-door weekend canvassing, going to movie theaters, the DC Health Link Care-A-Van that traveled ward to ward and the 24Hr + Enrollment Marathon with enrollment sites at Denny’s (Ward 7) Ben’s Chili Bowl (Ward 1), Smith Commons (Ward 6) and MidTown Barber Shop (Ward 4). HBX staff also developed the Faith-in-Action, a partnership with the faith-based community to help educate and get residents enrolled.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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