This column was originally published in Morning Consult.
The third open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) comes to a close on January 31, and thus far enrollment is going very well. Already more than 11 million have enrolled in coverage through the marketplaces, and – with the busy final week of enrollment ahead of us – total enrollment is already ahead of where it was at the same point during the previous enrollment period.
With just a week to go, here’s what has helped Enroll America reach some of the groups most likely to still be uninsured: young people, communities of color, and hourly workers.
Young adults have been a primary focus for us this enrollment period, since almost half of the eligible uninsured are between the ages of 18 and 34. And because young people tend to be healthier, they are also important to the continued health and stability of insurance markets. We know from past enrollment periods that young Americans tend to wait until the deadline to finish the process.
In order to give them the final push they need to get covered, we recently hosted the third annual National Youth Enrollment Day with Young Invincibles and other partners across the country to provide enrollment support before the deadline. We held over 100 youth-focused events at places like community colleges and YMCAs, and shared digital tools like the Get Covered Connector, which allows consumers to make free appointments with in-person assisters and the Get Covered Plan Explorer, which compares plans and estimated total costs based on their health care needs, to make sure young Americans have the information they need to enroll.
We also know that schools are some of the most effective messengers for reaching uninsured children and young parents, so we’re partnering with school districts, like Shelby County Schools in Tennessee, which are helping us provide families with enrollment resources.
From our research, it’s clear that repeated follow-up with consumers is essential to move them to action. This effect was particularly strong among young people, who were more than twice as likely to enroll after the third time we contacted them. One of the best ways we’re using that tactic to reach young people is through organizing phone banks with historically black colleges and universities. For example, students at Spelman College in Georgia hosted a series of phone banks and made a total of 7,000 calls to consumers. We’ve seen encouraging numbers of young adults signing up during this enrollment period so far, and we’ll continue to push right up to the deadline to help them get covered.
We also know that the remaining uninsured are disproportionately concentrated in communities of color. Despite historic gains in coverage over the last three years, Latinos and African Americans are still more likely to be uninsured than their white counterparts. In these communities, we know that in-person assistance is particularly important – especially among Latinos. In fact, 63% of uninsured Spanish-speaking Latinos said that talking to someone one-on-one about their options was very important to them.
That’s why we’ve continued our work to connect consumers with culturally-competent assisters and make it easier to find someone in their community through offering our Get Covered Connector online scheduling tool in both English and Spanish. We also know that faith leaders are trusted voices in many African-American communities, so we expanded our Health Care in the Pulpit program to offer ideas on incorporating health care information into sermons and prayer services and provide guidance on how to connect their congregants with local enrollment resources.
Finally, research also shows that hourly workers and economically vulnerable Americans are more likely to be uninsured. For instance, a PerryUndem survey conducted in 2015 showed that 88 percent of the employed uninsured are hourly workers, so we’ve worked to expand partnerships with small businesses, taxi cab and ride share companies, and restaurant associations to reach their employees.
We also know that 54 percent of the overall uninsured have recently used a safety net service like an unemployment office, a food bank, or a low cost clinic. That’s why we’re continuing our successful partnerships with government entities, like county health departments, and nonprofits, such as legal aid organizations, who provide these critical services.
As the pool of the remaining uninsured becomes smaller each year, outreach becomes more of a personal ongoing conversation, rather than a flashy marketing blitz. We’re meeting the uninsured where they are, offering cutting-edge tools, following up with more information over the phone and email, and scheduling appointments for them to sit down with enrollment experts in their community.
As the deadline fast approaches, many consumers will be looking for information about how to enroll, and we and our thousands of partners across the country will be ready to help them and make this enrollment period the most successful yet.
Anne Filipic serves as President of Enroll America, a non-profit organization dedicated to maximizing the number of Americans who enroll in health coverage made available through the Affordable Care Act.