Four Strategies That Are Connecting Uninsured Californians to Health Coverage

By William Tomasko

“Is there anything exciting about buying health insurance?”

Zócalo Public Square posed that question leading up to a health coverage forum with the California Wellness Foundation. They reached out to our California experts, Nicole Oehmke and Andy Perry, and asked them for insight into what tactics have worked well so far in the state.

Read their response below, and check out Zócalo for more contributions:


Knowing your customer’s needs

The nonprofit we work for in California, Enroll America, has focused on collecting and analyzing data to understand and meet uninsured consumers’ specific needs for information and assistance. As a result, we have employed the following strategies to get coverage to the uninsured:

Give consumers the information they need, spin-free. Many consumers get their information about the ACA from the local news, but they have found that news coverage is often about politics rather than practical concerns. Filling that information gap with nonpartisan, practical information is crucial. Many of the remaining uninsured do not know how to find free in-person assistance, nor are they aware that financial help is available to make premiums affordable.

Create strong relationships with and among trusted messengers. Consumers need information from sources they already know and trust. Faith leaders, librarians, schools, clinics, and labor unions have had great success engaging consumers in the enrollment conversation. We provide toolkits, scripts and support for these messengers to help spread the word about coverage, and we connect partners who have mastered only one piece of the healthcare puzzle with complementary partners to build stronger collaborations.

Build a program around multiple contacts. Most consumers need to be contacted 5 or 6 times — either in person, via email, or by phone — before they are ready to enroll. Intensive follow-up is necessary and must be planned.

Provide personalized, in-person assistance. Consumers are much more motivated by cost calculators and other personalized tools that help them understand the level of financial help available to their families than by general statements about low-cost plans. They also prefer local, in-person assistance from someone who speaks their language and understands (or shares) their cultural background to guide them through the enrollment process.

The majority of the Californians who remain uninsured have been uninsured for at least three years or have never been insured; most of them are Latino; most of them are men. Successful outreach and enrollment programs will be designed with those demographics and the strategies above in mind.

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