Community Hospitals Become Default Advisors on HIX

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , September 25, 2013

Hospital associations and the feds are encouraging community and rural health providers to step up for health insurance exchanges. But for many, it's just one more mandate.

As the six-month open enrollment period for the new health insurance exchanges created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act begins on October 1, community and rural hospitals will be the default advisors for patients and consumers trying to find the right coverage.

The nation's three largest hospital associations—American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association, and the Federation of American Hospitals—embraced that idea at a joint webcast last week and encouraged the hospitals they represent to play an active role in signing up their patients for coverage through the exchanges.

"People will only enroll if they know that this coverage is available and if they understand how to access these new coverage options," AHA President & CEO Rich Umbdenstock said at the event. "That is where we can help. It is critical that community stakeholders—certainly hospitals, faith groups, civic organizations and others—come together to help make the enrollment process straight forward and widely available."

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services said this week it would divvy up $2.5 million and give $25,000 each to 52 hospitals and other rural providers to "educate and enroll uninsured individuals and families living in rural America in new health coverage options."

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