Early Lessons from Certified Application Counselor Program Demonstrate Diverse Ways Organizations Can Help Consumers

By Zachary Baron

With millions of people across the country learning about and enrolling in quality affordable health coverage during the first open enrollment period (OEP1), Enroll America continues to work towards building on this success and learning lessons that will make it even easier for consumers to get connected to coverage.

We know that in-person help is and will remain a critical piece of the enrollment puzzle. Consumers receiving in-person assistance were about twice as likely to successfully enroll compared to consumers who attempted to enroll online without help.

While several in-person assistance programs work to connect consumers to their new options through the marketplace, the Certified Application Counselor (CAC) program allows unique opportunities for organizations and individuals nationwide to help consumers apply for and enroll in health coverage because of flexibility related to CAC funding sources, responsibilities, and performance metrics.

Read about CAC activity during OEP1, including the different funding, training, and program design decisions CAC organizations made to tailor enrollment efforts to their communities in our new report: Certified Application Counselor Program: Early Lessons.

The CAC program reflects that there is not a “one-size-fits-all” strategy to enrollment work. CAC organizations during OEP1 included community health centers (CHCs), hospitals, legal aid services, and faith-based organizations, among many others. CACs flourished in different ways to best respond to community needs and reach underserved populations. The CAC program lets trusted messengers build on existing partner relationships, and coordinate effectively with other assisters to meet consumers where they are.

We know that everyone involved in enrollment efforts can help strengthen the impact of the CAC program and build on the exciting achievements of OEP1. Enroll America is laser-focused on working with all enrollment stakeholders to highlight best practices of CACs across the country and expand the reach of the CAC program. We believe CACs and enrollment partners can take steps now to better help consumers for the next open enrollment period and beyond.


  • Tailor resources: Those CACs that work carefully to tailor their resources and capabilities to the individual communities they serve will maximize their effectiveness in helping consumers enroll.
  • Increase number of CACs: More CACs are needed to ensure outreach efforts can match interested consumers with timely and convenient enrollment assistance. Enroll America will focus on recruiting new groups and individuals to serve as CACs during next open enrollment period. Increasing resources and capacity for existing CACs and expanding the universe of CACs through recruitment will ensure that CAC
    programs can have maximum impact during the next open enrollment period.
  • Leverage power of small grants: Public and private funders will continue to play an important role in ensuring CAC sustainability. Through volunteer structures and connections to larger enrollment efforts, CAC programs can leverage small grants to make significant enrollment gains.
  • Boost training: As marketplaces move to update their CAC training programs to be more comprehensive and dynamic next year, CAC organizations and community partners should move in tandem to boost their own training efforts to ensure CACs are well-armed with the knowledge they need to be successful.
  • Coordinate with other assisters and local partners: Coordinating with other assisters and local partners to share resources and promote greater efficiency and cost-effective programmatic activities will be a crucial component to ensure the success and longevity of the CAC program.

Download the full report to read more about early lessons from the CAC program and recommendations to strengthen its impact.

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