Five Things Enroll America Needs to Accomplish By the End of the Fifth Enrollment Period

By Anne Filipic

When I started as President of Enroll America, just over three years ago, we faced one big question: Could a wide-ranging coalition come together, apply data-driven outreach strategies, and connect millions of Americans to health coverage under the Affordable Care Act?

The answer, in a word: yes! When it comes to identifying, reaching, and enrolling the uninsured — and making sure they stay covered — we have an outreach model that’s been refined and proven successful over three open enrollment periods. Sign-ups are hitting new heights, and the uninsured rate has plummeted to a historic low.

But now, our coalition of more than 6,700 partners faces a trio of challenges that are, frankly, even more daunting than what we faced three years ago. Will we be able to reach and enroll consumers who still haven’t gotten covered? Can we cement the coverage gains we’ve seen? And, at the same time, can we embed tried-and-true engagement strategies in communities across the country?

If we’re going to make even more meaningful progress on making health coverage enrollment a way of life all over America, the answer to those questions has to be yes. That’s why we’ve created a multi-year plan to make outreach and enrollment a sustained and institutionalized nationwide effort, and even to allow our Get Covered America consumer-outreach campaign to declare victory and wind down.

As part of our plan for the coming two years, we’ve laid out five core goals for our program to help us achieve our vision of not only continuing to engage uninsured and newly enrolled consumers across the country, but also building the long-term infrastructure needed to ensure our gains and progress last into the years ahead. These goals are informed by strategies that have already proven to be successful, and over the next few months, we’ll continue to assess how we can meet the needs and opportunities in the shifting enrollment landscape. If we can accomplish these goals, more people will have the peace of mind and financial security that comes from getting covered, and there will be a self-sustaining, community-based enrollment infrastructure in place.

We’ve already accomplished a lot, and by the end of the fifth enrollment period we will have:

1. Reached out to uninsured and recently insured consumers through more than 17 million face-to-face and digital contacts. Millions of uninsured Americans could still get financial help to get covered, and the newly insured will need to know what to do to stay covered. In the past, we’ve seen that every additional follow-up makes a consumer more likely to get covered, even nearly closing the enrollment gap for young adults and people of color, who are still most likely to be uninsured.

2. Made more than 5 million free appointments available for consumers to schedule in-person help with enrollment assisters. Last year, more than 7 in 10 uninsured Americans wanted in-person help to look into their new coverage options. And our data show that people who sat down with enrollment assisters were nearly 60 percent more likely to successfully get covered. That’s why we’re doubling down on the Get Covered Connector — an online tool people can use to search for and seamlessly schedule appointments with local assisters.

3. Recruited and trained over 300 organizations from all 50 states and the District of Columbia through the Get Covered Academy. Local groups will continue to join the Get Covered Academy — a yearlong, intensive coaching program — and get support to plan and implement their own comprehensive enrollment outreach programs using Get Covered America’s proven tactics. Each participant will have a ripple effect on their community and will make sure even more people are reached and enrolled.

4. Worked with at least six national organizations, companies, or municipalities with audiences of 250,000 people or more to make enrollment a permanent fixture in their program. By joining forces with over 6,700 partners, we’ve been able to magnify our reach. In the next two years, we will build and expand six large-scale partnerships with organizations that already have a wide, built-in base of consumers who are likely to be uninsured. And those entities will continue engaging consumers year after year, making sure that people know where to turn for help and how to sign up for or re-enroll in coverage.

5. Prepared to leave a legacy of lessons learned by keeping track of what works. That way, when we’re able to wind down our direct-to-consumer outreach, we can sum up a set of best practices for other organizations to use. The implications won’t only apply to health coverage. These lessons could be a broader roadmap for implementing public programs — and expanding their impact — through efficient, data-driven outreach.

Meeting these five goals won’t be easy. Fortunately, I know we have a team that thrives on tackling thorny problems and implementing innovative solutions.

This is not the beginning of the end, but it might be the end of the beginning, to paraphrase Winston Churchill. We’re moving away from the first phase of Affordable Care Act outreach and into a phase with new challenges and opportunities. We’ll need to build upon the success we’ve already seen while also ensuring that local groups have the tools they need to sustain the movement. Ultimately, it will be the quiet work in communities across the country — from faith groups and food banks to libraries and local government — that will ensure the success of expanding health coverage.

The stakes are high, but I know this team and this coalition are ready. And after the fifth open enrollment period ends in 2018, I look forward to being able to look back at the ground we’ve covered together — and how we’ve helped shape an America where having quality, affordable health insurance is a way of life.

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