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With the health insurance marketplace exchange (coveredca.com) slated to open next Tuesday, some libraries in California may be wondering if their technology is set and ready. Here’s a concise but comprehensive guide to all the tools a library needs.

First—and this is important!—if you believe your library cannot supply online access for the enrollment process, that’s okay! But, if that is the route that best fits your staff and tech resources, you will still need to be able to provide information to library users about where and how to enroll, if that is the information they need. Online enrollment is not the only route an applicant may take; however, it is the most efficient and the only one that can provide a way to shop the options his or her specific situation would provide through the exchange.

Now, the technology nuts and bolts. In order to enroll online, the applicant must have access to:

  • Internet enabled computer

That’s it, for hardware. However, what the computer can access also requires notice:

  • Open access to .com sites

That’s it for software necessities. If you still want some more bells and whistles that can aid enrollment online, however, the one more (yup, just one more!) thing the applicant might need is:

  • A simple calculator

Since computers always come with built in calculators and since these calculators on public access equipment are generally still sitting in the applications folder, unavailable to public monkey business, it would be a kindness to enable access to the calculator on all public access machines.In the online portal to the California health insurance exchange, applicants don't need to input any documents, so there is no need for a scanner.

Yesterday's webinar by Covered California staff showed clearly and completely how the portal allows the applicant to do all of the following:

  • Recheck information keyed into template for typos and other errors
  • Enter anonymously to get ballpark information on what plans at what costs are most likely to match your demographic criteria
  • View specific plan option after inputting all pertinent information for full application without actually buying one of the plans offered to match your specific details

No email address is required. Each user is provided a PIN number so that he or she can return to the application at a later point after considering the options away from the computer session.

Information the applicant needs to have with him or her in order to enroll, or shop in detail, online include:

  • Tax identification number or Social Security number for each household member
  • Monthly income figure for each and all sources of household income
  • Fair estimate of the amount of health related expenses incurred during the past three months (used as a predictor by the computerized program to determine how much medical use the household typically makes, so if the past three months were unusual, the applicant may want to adjust for that)

If the applicant has all of this information along, the full enrollment time online, for a family of three, appears to take about 35-40 minutes. The trick, of course, is the presence of those pieces of personal data. The hardware and the software parts--way easier than many have been imagining!

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