More About Shelby Gonzales

Shelby Gonzales

Gonzales is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Health Division. She focuses primarily on the implementation of effective outreach and program simplification strategies to promote enrollment and retention in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Gonzales also works on issues related to outreach, eligibility and enrollment in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Gonzales was appointed to serve as a member of the Advisory Panel on Outreach and Education (APOE) which among other duties is charged with advising the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator on matters related to education and outreach to enroll and retain individuals in Medicaid, Medicare and CHIP.

Full bio and recent public appearances | Research archive at CBPP.org


Moms: Getting Their Families the Coverage They Need

May 12, 2014 at 11:52 am

In a new blog post for Moms Rising, I discuss the important role that mothers play in getting their families the health coverage that they need.  Many already have been responsible for more than 8 million people enrolling in private health coverage during the first open enrollment season for health reform’s insurance marketplaces and another 4.8 million individuals enrolling in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

As I explain for Moms Rising, they’ll continue to be instrumental in getting their families enrolled, even between now and November 15, when the next open enrollment period for the marketplaces begins:

Here are three basic points to keep in mind between now and then:

People who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP can sign up at any time.  Unlike private coverage, Medicaid and CHIP have no limited enrollment period.  Eligibility for these programs varies by state but, in states that have expanded Medicaid under health reform, adults with income up to 138 percent of the poverty line (about $27,000 for a family of three) can enroll.

Some people can get additional time to finish enrolling in marketplace coverage. Some people who started to enroll before the March 31 deadline and experienced problems with healthcare.gov or have faced other exceptional circumstances can get additional time to complete the process.  In these cases, they may be able to come back to finish their applications now.  In states with their own marketplaces, the deadlines vary, so people who think they may qualify for extensions should check their state’s marketplace website for details.

Major life changes can allow families to enroll in marketplace coverage.  Many people who lose other coverage (such as Medicaid or job-based coverage) or experience other changes can enroll in marketplace coverage during “special enrollment periods” (SEPs).  Although some significant life changes, such as getting divorced, don’t by themselves trigger a SEP, many major life changes do:

  • Losing other health coverage;
  • Moving to a different state, or even within a state if the move changes which plans are available;
  • Getting married; and
  • Having a baby or adopting a child.

Click here to read the full post.

Enrollment Assistance Under Health Reform Has Roots in Other Successful Programs

May 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm

Starting in October, millions of uninsured Americans will be able to enroll in private health coverage through health reform’s new health insurance marketplaces (also called “exchanges”).  But a program designed to help people apply for and enroll in coverage has come under fire, despite its origins in other successful enrollment efforts.

Under health reform, so-called “navigators” — including community and consumer nonprofits, unions, and trade groups — will help people sign up for insurance through the marketplaces, understand their options, and enroll in the right plan.  Critics contend that these assisters could provide poor-quality services or take business away from insurance agents.  But past experience, coupled with the rules that have been proposed to govern the navigators’ work, shows that those concerns are unfounded.

The exchange model included navigators because similar “helper” programs have worked well to connect people with the programs and services for which they’re eligible, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  For example, the federally funded and administered State Health Insurance Assistance Program offers one-on-one guidance to Medicare beneficiaries in every state.  And similar assister programs have played a significant role in increasing enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP across the country; some 86 percent of eligible children are now enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, an all-time high.

The Department of Health and Human Services based the navigator program under health reform on these successes and proposed rules that would help ensure that the assisters will be professional and well-trained.  The proposed rules create robust training standards to prepare navigators to provide high-quality assistance and strong conflict of interest standards to ensure that navigators act in consumers’ best interests.

Contrary to criticisms, the navigator program is well designed.  These assisters will help uninsured people find — and join — the plan that’s right for them.

User-Friendly Applications Will Help Uninsured Gain Coverage

April 30, 2013 at 3:07 pm

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today released the revised forms that people will use to apply for health coverage through the new health insurance marketplaces (also known as exchanges).  These relatively short, easy-to-understand applications are a big improvement over the drafts that HHS released for comment in January.

Applications will be consumers’ first stop to getting the coverage they’ll qualify for, so it’s important that they’re well-designed and simple.

Single adults who are not offered health coverage at work will have the easiest option — a new “short form” that offers a streamlined route to health coverage, similar to the 1040EZ for taxes.  This application will make it easier for the millions of uninsured, single adults without children who meet the income eligibility standards to get help paying for coverage through the marketplaces or Medicaid.

The revised forms incorporate many of the suggestions that we and other organizations provided to improve the draft applications.  The questions and instructions are clearer, unnecessary questions have been dropped, and the overall design should be easier for consumers to follow.

The marketplaces will begin accepting applications on October 1, 2013.

Helping Consumers Choose the Right Health Plan Under Health Reform

April 16, 2013 at 10:12 am

In less than six months, millions of uninsured Americans will be able to enroll in private health coverage through health reform’s new health insurance exchanges.  Health reform requires exchanges to create “navigator” programs to help individuals enroll, but groups representing insurance agents have expressed concern that navigators could take business away from agents and that unqualified navigators could provide poor-quality assistance; some states are considering limiting the kinds of help that navigators can give or even making it difficult for anyone besides an insurance agent to become a navigator.  A proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would address some of these issues.

The rule, issued April 5, would prevent states from barring navigators from performing critical functions, including helping people apply for coverage and then educating them on how to select particular health insurance plans in the exchanges that will best meet their needs.  It would also prohibit states from requiring navigators to be licensed insurance agents or brokers — a requirement that would rule out many non-profit organizations with experience in helping qualified people obtain public benefits.

In addition, the rule would create robust training standards to ensure that navigators provide high-quality assistance and strong conflict of interest standards to ensure that navigators act in consumers’ best interests.

HHS also recently announced that it will award $54 million to navigators in 34 states with federal exchanges.  At least two types of entities will serve as navigators in each state, including at least one community- and consumer-focused nonprofit.

Together, the proposed navigator rule and the federal funding will help the navigator program provide needed assistance so people can choose the plan that’s right for them.

States Cutting Red Tape in Health Programs

December 21, 2012 at 11:13 am

Twenty-three states (see map) received a total of roughly $300 million in federal performance bonuses this week for exceeding targets for enrolling more eligible children in Medicaid and removing obstacles that can prevent eligible families from applying for and renewing Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) coverage.

The bonuses give states a powerful incentive to improve their eligibility and enrollment processes.

South Carolina, for example, first qualified for a bonus in 2011 after adopting “express lane eligibility,” meaning the state now renews some children’s eligibility for Medicaid using information it has already obtained and verified when determining the family’s eligibility for SNAP (formerly food stamps).  As a result, these families no longer have to submit the same information twice.

Since South Carolina adopted this new procedure, which saves time and effort for the state as well as families, more than 175,000 children have renewed Medicaid coverage without unnecessary paperwork.

States will make their health care programs even more accessible to eligible families in the next couple of years because of health reform, which requires all states to adopt several such measures by 2014 — such as using electronic data to verify beneficiaries’ continued eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP when they renew coverage.  You can find detailed information about the changes that states will make in Coordinating Human Services Programs with Health Reform Implementation: A Toolkit for State Agencies.

Center’s New Toolkit Will Help States Prepare for Eligibility Changes Under ACA

June 13, 2012 at 9:24 am

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will not only make affordable health care available to millions of low- and moderate-income, uninsured Americans.  It will also transform how individuals access health coverage programs, bringing eligibility processes into the 21st Century.  This transformation will likely also significantly change how families apply for and receive other benefits, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and child care subsidies, that are critical to helping many low-income families make ends meet and are often administered alongside Medicaid.

We have developed a toolkit to help state officials and other stakeholders identify how best to approach these changes in their states, which face numerous questions about how to structure their processes and workforce to maximize efficiency, and how to use technology and other resources.  The changes states make will affect millions of low-income individuals’ and families’ ability to easily obtain Medicaid, SNAP, child care subsidies, and other benefits.

Our toolkit’s seven modules will help states answer key questions, such as:

  • How will people who apply for SNAP and other human services programs apply for Medicaid?  In most states, families that apply for benefits at a local human services office can apply for Medicaid.  Will that still be the norm in 2014?  Or will the poorest families face added burdens to obtaining health coverage because they can only apply for Medicaid through some other process?
  • How will low-income people who apply for health coverage through the state’s online application be connected to other human services programs and benefits?  When low-income individuals apply for health coverage and qualify for Medicaid, will there be a process to help connect them to other benefits and services for which they might be eligible?

Each toolkit exercise gives states and stakeholders the tools they need to assess their current application and enrollment processes — and to help them implement the ACA in a way that connects families with all the services they need.

No Bonuses for You, House Committee Tells States That Improve Children’s Health Coverage

May 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted last week to eliminate performance bonuses for states that streamline their Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) procedures and reduce red tape so that more eligible low-income children can get and keep health coverage.

Like several other steps the committee took to produce the savings required by the House-passed budget, such as defunding state health insurance exchanges and letting states drop people from Medicaid and CHIP, eliminating the bonuses would mean more Americans — in this case, low-income children — would go without health insurance.

Congress created the bonuses in 2009 when it renewed CHIP, a program that, along with Medicaid, has helped substantially expand health coverage among children over the last decade, even as coverage among adults has steadily eroded.  The federal government has awarded 23 states over $500 million in bonuses (see map).

23 States Have Received Performance Bonuses for Improving Children's Health Enrollment

To qualify, a state must adopt certain measures that simplify the application and renewal process for eligible children and must meet a target for enrolling more eligible children.  South Carolina, for example, last year started using family information that it had already obtained and verified as accurate for SNAP (formerly food stamps) to renew children’s eligibility for Medicaid, rather than require families to resubmit that information.

In the first eight months of using this new procedure, known as Express Lane Eligibility, South Carolina eliminated extra paperwork for the families of over 84,000 children.

Reforms like these also can lower state administrative costs.  South Carolina estimates that Express Lane Eligibility will save about 50,000 hours of worker time and $1 million per year.

Without the incentive of these performance bonuses, some of the 23 states that have received bonuses probably would not have simplified their programs and increased Medicaid and CHIP participation among eligible children.

Eliminating the bonuses would save only about $400 million, the Congressional Budget Office says — just a tiny fraction of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s required $97 billion in savings and unnecessary in any event, since the committee’s total savings package well exceeds $97 billion even without the bonus provision.  Moreover, removing an incentive for states to help more eligible children get coverage could have a large and harmful impact on many children’s lives.