Obamacare provides for helpers—called “navigators”—to help people enroll in coverage through the exchanges. It also providers for “assisters” to aid people who need additional help. (Assisters are supposed to have training and meet conflict-of-interest guidelines.) Whether these new helpers will do a better job than some of the counselors at state health insurance programs (SHIP) for Medicare beneficiaries remains to be seen. I have found SHIP counselors who were outstanding and some who were very unhelpful. If there are too many of the latter, people may not sign up. All this means the press needs to keep tabs on them, perhaps by sitting in on counseling sessions with consumers seeking insurance in the exchanges, or finding a candidate for coverage and observing what he or she goes through to get insurance.

Key Question: How serious is your exchange about outreach and education?

The Kaiser poll out last week came with a warning: Americans’ expectations of how the law will affect healthcare costs, quality, and consumer protections are more negative than positive, and often off-base. False information still pervades peoples’ thinking. Fifty-seven percent of the public believes the health law includes a public option. Almost half think it gives illegal immigrants money to buy insurance. And 40 percent still thinks that death panels will make decisions about end-of-life care for Medicare seniors.

We have our work cut out for us.

Follow @USProjectCJR for more posts from this author and the rest of the United States Project team.

Related stories:

Exchange Watch: Growing pains in Connecticut: Is the state’s model insurance plan unaffordable?

Exchange Watch: Half a Story in Connecticut: On insurance affordability, the Hartford Courant falls short


 

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Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.