Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Date: September 3, 2013
WILMINGTON (Sept. 3, 2013) - Less than a month before Delaware's Health Insurance Marketplace opens for enrollment, state officials and community organizations said they are ready to begin the historic program to provide uninsured Delawareans greater access to affordable health care.
Delaware Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf and Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart were joined today at a kickoff event for the marketplace by representatives of the four community organizations who will guide individuals, families and small business owners through the enrollment process. As part of the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010, each state must establish a marketplace - formerly known as an exchange - for individuals who don't have access to affordable health insurance through work or some other means. In addition, small business owners can shop for plans for their employees through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). Enrollment for individuals and small businesses will begin Oct. 1. Information about the marketplace is available at www.ChooseHealthDE.com, the state's official marketplace website, which is also available in Spanish.
"This is our collective opportunity to make affordable health insurance and quality health care available to the 90,000 Delawareans who don't have insurance today," Secretary Landgraf said at the kickoff event at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington. "With the help of the marketplace guides and our marketing campaign, we will spread the word that Delaware's health insurance marketplace will be open for enrollment beginning Oct. 1. For so many individuals and families, this will mean the end to the fear that one accident or one illness could send them into a lifetime of debt."
Commissioner Stewart said the 68 marketplace guides from Brandywine Women's Health Associates, Christiana Care, the Delmarva Foundation and Westside Family Healthcare are going through rigorous state and federal training, a proctored exam, and state and federal background checks before they are certified by the state to handle sensitive personal information.
"Delawareans will be able to trust the marketplace guides to help them through enrollment because of the extensive certification process," Commissioner Stewart said. "Each guide will have a badge with a certification number, and identification from their community organization and from the state. Beginning in the middle of this month, the guides will begin fanning out across the state to help individuals and small businesses with enrollment, including the possibility of tax credits to offset the costs."
Delawareans also will receive assistance from federal navigators, who will be hired by Chatman LLC of Upper Marlboro, Md. Chatman LLC was awarded a federal grant. In addition, Delaware's three federally qualified health centers, Henrietta Johnson Medical Center, La Red Health Center and Westside Family Healthcare, received federal grants to help with consumer assistance. Commissioner Stewart said information on the rates for the plans on Delaware's marketplace will be available before Oct. 1, after the federal government concludes its approval process. Three issuers have applied to Delaware's marketplace: Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware, Coventry Health and Life Insurance, and Coventry Health Care of Delaware. In addition, four stand-alone dental plans have applied to Delaware's marketplace: Delta Dental, Dentegra, Dominion and Guardian. Because Delaware opted for a state-federal partnership marketplace, both the state and the federal government must approve the plans.
Gia Cotman, who has been hired as a marketplace guide by Brandywine Women's Health Associates, spoke about not having health insurance. Until recently, Cotman said, she was receiving unemployment benefits and was not eligible for coverage. She worried about the high cost of medical care if something happened to her or her two children. "Having health insurance gives me peace of mind," Cotman said. "Going through that period makes me passionate about helping others receive that same access to affordable health insurance."
Alex Parkowski, account supervisor for ab+c in Wilmington, which is designing and executing the campaign's marketing communications, explained the strategy behind the campaign. "The public awareness campaign is a multi-pronged approach to help strengthen awareness of health insurance in general and the marketplace in particular. The campaign is tailored toward two markets, 18- to 29-year-olds and 30- to 64-year-olds, because they have vastly different expectations and needs."Choose Health Delaware encourages the younger audience to buy health insurance because accidents and illnesses do happen, and the benefit of insurance far outweighs the potential risk of not having insurance. For the older audience, the message is that Delawareans can buy insurance through the marketplace regardless of any pre-existing condition they might have.The campaign includes radio, TV, print, billboards, social media and grassroots outreach in places such as stores, barbershops, churches, libraries and community centers. Many components of the campaign will be in English and Spanish.
Delaware expects up to 35,000 people to enroll in the marketplace in the first year. To receive coverage starting Jan. 1, 2014, people must enroll by Dec. 15, 2013. Open enrollment for the 2014 plan year continues through March 31, 2014.
In addition, the state expects up to 30,000 Delawareans to be eligible under the Medicaid expansion that Gov. Markell approved last year. On Jan. 1, 2014, Delaware's Medicaid income eligibility will move from 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) to a maximum of 138 percent FPL.
President & CEO Maria Matos of the Latin American Community Center said it is important that the marketplace reaches all Delawareans, including individuals and small business owners who speak Spanish.
"I am so glad to hear that the marketplace guides will offer bilingual services," Matos said. "As a community organization, we know the importance of health insurance and quality health care, and we will do our part to spread the message about the marketplace throughout the state."
Secretary Landgraf said the federal government's 24/7 Call Center - (800) 318-2596 or TTY (855) 889-4325 - can answer questions in 150 languages. If people don't have access to a computer, they can call the toll-free number to get the help they need to enroll.
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.