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Navigators Work To Improve Health Insurance Literacy During Wisconsin's Open Enrollment Period

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Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Healthcare Marketplace has been an integral part of accessing health insurance for many Americans. It’s a website where people can find key information about healthcare plans, like the costs of premiums and deductible limits.

But for anyone unfamiliar with how health insurance works, it can be really confusing and the time to set up that coverage is fleeting. In Wisconsin, the open enrollment period this year is just six weeks long —November 1 through December 15. Organizations like Covering Wisconsin are part of a network of groups that work to help people get health care coverage.

"Everyone’s experience with insurance is a little bit different, and you know, there’s no class on how insurance works in high school. So when people become adults and need to figure it out on their own, they really haven’t ever had it explained to them or resources put in their hands where they can figure things out," says Adam VanSpankeren. He's the navigator program manager for Covering Wisconsin. 

Nik Duke, one of the organization's navigators based in Milwaukee, says because of how the marketplace works, small mistakes can have a huge impact on the kind of insurance rates people can get. 

"How your income is counted is one of the big ones, because the income is how [the website calculates] the tax credit. So you can go from getting a significant tax credit to possibly not getting one at all, just based on a check mark that you did or didn't check throughout the application," he explains. 

Joy Powers hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2016.