Consumer assistance groups need to “stop being enemies with each other,” National Association of Health Underwriters’ CEO Janet Trautwein insisted after a panel discussion at the Kaiser Family Foundation Thursday in Washington. Trautwein was on hand to represent the broker arm of consumer assistance with the Affordable Care Act during the talk called, “How will consumers navigate new health care options?”
When a consumer in the audience asked a question to the panel about whether brokers are incentivized to advise clients on certain carriers over others, panelist Kathleen Gmeiner of Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage said, “Navigators are required by the law to provide impartial information … [but it] doesn’t say brokers have to do that. I would have liked to have seen that in the legislation.”
Trautwien told EBA after the panel that she wants all consumer assistance groups to work together. “There’s no reason why we have to say, ‘That’s our turf and that’s your turf,’” she said.
And there’s a lot of work to be done. “We still have some things to figure out, all of the people we need to touch,” Trautwein said to the audience of reporters, health policy wonks and private consumers, among others, during the panel.
Trautwein has been working closely with Washington D.C.’s exchange, one of the exchanges that will operate separately from the federal government, and has seen first-hand the confusion among people, many of whom have never had health insurance in their life. “Our interest is in stability. This frantic feeling people have is not useful for anyone … we all need to work together,” she said.
Also on the panel, hosted at Kaiser in partnership with Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, were several health care advocacy representatives from Ohio and New York and journalist Nancy Metcalf, who writes about health reform for Consumer Reports magazine.
“What I am struck by over and over again is the extreme specificity of the questions that come in,” Metcalf says about readers who write to the magazine about the ACA. “They don’t care about the health law, they care about themselves.”
Kaiser host Karen Pollitz outlined the main types of consumer assistance programs: statewide CAPs, exchange assistance programs (which includes navigators, in-person assistance programs, call centers, website assistance), Medicaid assisters and brokers.
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