This week, November 16-20, 2015, marks the Affordable Care Act Native American Week of Action. IHS, Tribal and urban Indian health care facilities across the country are hosting outreach events, making presentations and answering your questions about health benefits coverage, the Marketplace and the Affordable Care Act.
In just the first week of the third Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment, more than 540,000 people selected a health insurance plan through the HealthCare.gov website, and more than 1.15 million consumers were included on applications submitted to the Marketplace. Even more signed up through their State-based Marketplaces. Over 350,000 existing Marketplace customers came back to the Marketplace, shopped and selected a plan that best meets their needs. The new improvements to the HealthCare.gov website makes signing up easier than ever. Most people find it a simple and smooth experience.
These impressive numbers are a result of outreach and enrollment staff actively engaging consumers about their health benefits options. Thank you to our dedicated Indian health program staff at IHS, Tribes and urban programs for educating American Indian and Alaska Native people about the Affordable Care Act, the value of health benefits coverage, how it works with their care at IHS, Tribal and urban providers and how affordable it can be. These leaders join the thousands of assisters, local community leaders and others across the country who are on the front lines helping people sign up.
Consumer assisters who live and work in your Tribal communities are trained and dedicated to guide you through the process, answer your questions and show you your options. Be on the lookout for announcements by your local Indian health care provider, Marketplace Navigators and other consumer assisters. There is still much work to do in the 11 remaining weeks in the Open Enrollment. Fortunately, we have plans on how to help.
It's clear that people are ready to get covered! When consumers go to HealthCare.gov, most are eligible for financial assistance-more than seven in 10 returning Marketplace customers can buy a plan for $75 or less a month in premiums after tax credits. The premium can be even lower if the tax credits are applied to a Bronze Level Plan. Combined with the special protections that federally recognized tribal members get when they use their plans, having health benefits coverage makes sense.
So now is the time to do your part. Go to one of the Affordable Care Act Native American Week of Action events. Listen carefully and ask questions. Set up an appointment with a Patient Benefits Coordinator, assister or Navigator to learn more. Share the information with your family and friends. Talk about it. I think you will find that with a little help, you'll have a satisfying experience and find a plan that works for you and your family. That's the Marketplace at work.
Robert G. McSwain, a member of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California, is the Principal Deputy Director for the Indian Health Service (IHS). Mr. McSwain most recently served as the Acting Director for the IHS, and has more than 30 years of experience in Tribal health care.