This post was written by Karen Kelly, Coordinator of the New Hampshire Citizens Alliance.
During open enrollment in New Hampshire, I didn’t really know how to talk about what our organization, New Hampshire Citizens Alliance (NHCA), was doing. I usually would say that we were assisting the assisters. What really struck home for me at Enroll America’s State of Enrollment conference is that, although I feared maybe we weren’t doing enough in regards to enrollment, there were LOTS of other organizations in a similar position. And we affirmed for each other that the role we were all playing — and will continue to play — was very important.
NHCA is a well-established education and advocacy organization that has been working for the people of New Hampshire for 37 years. We have access to a network of over 20,000 people throughout the state. We have been in the trenches for many years fighting for affordable, quality health care for all. Yet with implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the subsequent passage of the New Hampshire Health Protection Program (the state’s Medicaid expansion), our role was no longer clear. We were not Navigators or Certified Application Counselors under the ACA, so where did we fit in this new landscape?
Because our organization is well known, we were invited to participate in regular regional meetings of assisters (even though were weren’t certified as assisters and didn’t quite know our role yet). Throughout open enrollment our value-add became clear:
- Our network was going to be a valuable resource for enrollment in terms of outreach and education.
- We brought a huge volunteer pool to help with the enrollment effort.
- Our central location in Concord was a convenient space for assisters to enroll folks.
To some degree, we found our niche: NHCA could provide a variety of resources and functions as a referral network that was, and will continue to be, essential for enrollment success.
At the State of Enrollment conference, I was able to reflect on the role we played during open enrollment and realized that we, and other groups like us, are credible partners and have a very important role doing enrollment assistance!
I came away from the workshops at the conference with tools and ideas that will help our organization strengthen the work we do with assisters, take a leadership role in the state to increase enrollment, and put to work great ideas for creating more and more community partnerships that will allow us to mine deep into the communities of greatest need.
NHCA has invaluable experience in health coverage enrollment efforts. We know how to focus on the facts rather than the fight; on what works rather than temporary limitations; on recognizing the indicators of change, such as the bending cost curve; and on building an effective, sustainable infrastructure. We understand the complicated choices that our residents face and have experience in helping New Hampshire residents understand the issues and their options.
Thanks to the State of Enrollment conference, the organizations that attended, and Enroll America, I realize that not only is our work an important contribution to enrollment, but NHCA is in a position to work with partners to create a sustainable infrastructure for the future of affordable, quality health care for the people of our state. I have no doubt that other organizations had the same opportunity to reflect on their work, and that they were able to begin to develop or refine their action plan for the weeks and months ahead!