Health Insurance Marketplace Q&A

Health Insurance Marketplace Q&A

Lauren Pendergast, BS, RD
Lauren Pendergast, BS, RD

Starting Jan. 1, many Americans who enrolled in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act will have coverage for the first time. Since the U.S. Health Insurance Marketplace opened in October, Christiana Care’s 12 marketplace guides have worked with more than 2,500 patients and neighbors to help them get health insurance and access health services. Here is a look inside their work with Marketplace Guide Coordinator Lauren Pendergast, BS, RD.

Q: What has been your experience since the U.S. Health Insurance Marketplace launched?

A: At Christiana Care, for many years we have been helping connect people to the resources they need, first through our health coaches and now through Choose Health Delaware, the state’s health insurance marketplace. We help people understand their insurance options and connect them with important health services so they can make the best choices for themselves and their families. In talking with patients at Christiana Care and with neighbors at community events, we hear every day that they are thankful and relieved to have the opportunity to access health care by having health insurance.

Q: How can patients and neighbors connect with a marketplace guide?

A: We help people by counseling them about their health insurance options through our phone line (302-320-6586) and in person. We have reached more than 2,500 Delawareans so far, and we are not slowing down. Our marketplace guides are at sites throughout Christiana Care, including all three emergency departments, the Wilmington Hospital Health Center, and the Christiana Care Family Medicine Center. Our guides also are in the community, talking to our neighbors at Christiana Care’s school-based health centers and at nearly 50 community events so far.

Q: What does a typical meeting with marketplace guide include?

A: We spend as much time with people as they need. Most are looking for guidance so they understand what their options are. Our guides talk with patients about current insurance status and about the health insurance marketplace. If they wish to begin their health insurance applications, our guides will then assist with that. Marketplace guides can assist with all parts of the application, including enrollment into a plan. Christiana Care marketplace guides also can connect patients to health services for themselves and their families. That is a unique service we provide at Christiana Care, since our guides also are trained as health educators. For Spanish-speaking people we have a bilingual administrative assistant to help set up meetings, and we have two bilingual marketplace guides.

Q: Christiana Care is the only hospital-based health system to partner with Choose Health Delaware and to hire marketplace guides. Why did Christiana Care decide to take such an active role in implementing the Affordable Care Act?

A: It is our privilege to serve our patients and our neighbors and to partner with them on the road to health insurance. Christiana Care’s mission and the Affordable Care Act are aligned in the goals of advancing health and well-being and giving people access to health care. Having access to health care through insurance means more efficient and effective use of health care resources and better care for the patient. The Affordable Care Act requires most Americans to have health insurance obtained from an employer, a private insurance company or from the government starting Jan. 1, and uninsured citizens can sign up for insurance through March 31 without a penalty. We are here to help.

Q: How can health care providers assist patients interested in learning more about their health insurance options?

A: We are always happy to have our colleagues refer patients to us. They can contact us or ask their patients to contact us by phone at 302-320-6586 or e-mail

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