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.
The third Affordable Care Act open enrollment period is more than half over, and as the mid-December deadline for January 1 coverage has approached, consumer interest has surged to unprecedented levels. Just in the states that use HealthCare.gov, more than 4 million consumers have already selected a plan, and more than 1.3 million of those consumers chose a plan in the week leading up to December 12 alone. In fact, demand was so high that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) extended the deadline for January 1 coverage to December 17, and many state-based marketplaces followed suit.
Those numbers from HHS echoes what Enroll America is seeing on our digital tools, and on the ground across the country: Consumers are hungry for more personalized information about their coverage options and the enrollment process, and they want help understanding what it means. And once consumers have the information they’re looking for, they can confidently take action to protect themselves and their families with quality, affordable health coverage.
Though this surge is unusually large, we know from past enrollment periods that many consumers wait until near deadlines to enroll. That’s why we’ve focused on creating consumer-friendly, embeddable digital tools that organizations around the country can use to address the obstacles to enrollment that consumers face, particularly near deadlines when the pressure is high:
- The Get Covered Calculator helps consumers quickly understand how financial help works and estimate how much a plan may cost if they decide to enroll. Our own research – as well as the latest survey from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and PerryUndem – makes clear that affordability is the primary concern for consumers, and we’ve seen that more than 1 in 4 of the consumers who use the calculator immediately begin the enrollment process.
- The Get Covered Connector helps consumers schedule appointments with free enrollment assisters in their community, and helps the enrollment coalition make sure we have enough assister capacity to meet demand when interest surges. Our work during the last two enrollment periods has shown that consumers who get in-person help are 60 percent more likely to successfully enroll in coverage.
- And this year, we rolled out the Get Covered Plan Explorer, an innovative plan comparison tool that helps consumers navigate the complexities of the enrollment process and choose a plan that is right for their personal situation. We’ve heard from many consumers and assisters that people are hungry for resources to help them easily assess out of pocket costs, deductibles, and which plans cover the providers they want to see; the Plan Explorer provides that information in a personalized, easy-to-navigate format.
This December has clearly demonstrated the need for these resources, and traffic to our tools has skyrocketed as the deadline approached. In fact, consumers used the Get Covered Connector to make more than twice as many assister appointments for December 15 as on the average day during open enrollment, and the 15th was the highest traffic day yet for all of our digital tools.
Talking about the nuances of the Affordable Care Act and health insurance in general can often prove difficult due to information gaps, complicated jargon, and general confusion about the enrollment process. But Enroll America’s tools have all been built using tested and user-friendly language to ensure that consumers understand the information they receive and can use it to make an informed enrollment choice.
The bottom line is that consumers want tools that deliver the critical information they need in a way that demystifies the Affordable Care Act, and we’re working hard to make these tools available to as many people as possible. We work with more than 6,700 partners across the country, and train them to use these tools in their own outreach and enrollment work. In fact, all of our tools are available – for free – to embed on the website of any organization that wants to provide their members and users with simple, just-the-facts enrollment information. Embed code is available for the Plan Explorer, the Connector, and the Calculator; our partner organizations have already embedded our tools nearly 300 times, making their websites destinations for consumers who want enrollment information.
When the New Year arrives, we’ll have one month left to make the final enrollment push. These tools can help your organization make sure the communities you serve can find the peace of mind that comes with quality, affordable health insurance.