Republican legislatures and governors who have put Obamacare in their cross-hairs have been largely successful in limiting people’s awareness of the law, according to a new study released Tuesday by the George Washington University.
There are two major aspects to the Affordable Care Act that state-level governments are capable of impairing: First, governors can choose not to expand the qualifications of Medicaid, thus limiting the number of low-income people able to enroll in the assistance program. Second, state legislatures can pass laws limiting the ability of so-called Obamacare “navigators” to disseminate information about how the law works, and how people can sign up for health care through the newly-established exchanges.
In states where these actions have been taken, GWU’s study found significant consequence: Clinics, likely fearing the consequences of giving out information without being a licensed “navigator,” are far less likely to help people find a health care program that’s right for them.
Where both restrictions were in place, just 56 percent of clinics offered help to people trying to get together the documents they needed to apply to a health insurance program through the federal exchange — compared to a full 77 percent of clinics in states where the law went into full effect. On top of that, clinic workers only helped people to fill out forms 78 percent of the time, compared to 86 percent of the time in states with full implementation. And when it came to selecting a plan, clinics in states with restrictions only helped 29 percent of the time, compared to 51 percent of the time in fully-implemented states.
Additionally, just 65 percent of clinics told people about their options for Medicaid enrollment, compared with 81 percent of clinics in states where the program was expanded. Plus, states with restrictions even have worse cross-cultural outreach: The study found that, while 76 percent of states with full implementation offer assistance and enrollment forms in other languages, just 60 percent of states with restrictions do.
While researchers cannot definitively quantify what didn’t happen, the lack of communication and information conveyed to patients seeking health care almost certainly led to decreased enrollment numbers and hampered people’s understanding of what’s in the law.
Nineteen states have passed navigator laws, and nine of those states also refused to expand Medicaid. Those nine are: Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.