Opinion

The Second Open Enrollment Period Presents New Challenges, But We’re Better Positioned to Meet Them than Ever Before

As the Enroll America office buzzes around during the first week of the second open enrollment period, I can’t help but think back to where we were just seven months ago when we finished the historic first enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, with more than 8 million Americans enrolled in the Marketplace. The success of the first enrollment effort had exceeded all possible expectations. But we knew that a new set obstacles and challenges were ahead, and some pundits felt that the unprecedented coalition that came together to launch the Marketplaces might dissolve, making it impossible for year two to match the expectations set by the first.

Of course, the first enrollment period was always going to need and attract the most resources: the expectations and stakes were highest, all of the infrastructure needed to be created for the first time, and people worked incredibly hard to ensure a successful launch of one of the largest expansions of coverage in American history. And we always knew the second open enrollment period would present a new set of challenges, including a shorter time frame, less “low-hanging fruit,” and navigating the renewals process for the first time.

But as the curtain raises on the second enrollment period, thanks to the amazing hard work and dedication of our staff, volunteers, and partners, I’m glad to say that the enrollment coalition stands better positioned to face the challenges ahead than ever before. This enrollment period has not only sustained the momentum of the first, but we are actually going to be able to reach even more people than we did the first time around.

The fact that we are growing our program during a time when many thought it would decline is impressive. Take these three data points:

  1. Though consumers may be harder to reach, our projections show that we will reach even more than during the first enrollment period. We always knew the consumers who didn’t sign up the first time would be harder to reach the second time around. But thanks to our research and lessons learned from the first effort, we’ve doubled down on the tactics we know work with these populations. In-person assistance makes it twice as likely someone will sign up, which is why we’re recruiting and training over 2,000 Certified Application Counselors and have created the Get Covered Connector so consumers can easily schedule an appointment with an in-person assister. In fact, staff and volunteers from our field program alone are projected to reach out person-to-person to more than 1.4 million consumers, a 50% increase from year one.

 

  1. Though funding was always going to be greatest during the first year, funding has remained very strong and the base of funders has grown. During our first few years, Enroll America raised about $5 million. In 2013, that number soared to $27 million, as a broad coalition came together to help launch the new Affordable Care Act insurance options. Given that many funders invested more during the initial period to give the Marketplaces the boost they needed to get off the ground, we knew there was going to be some natural attrition in funding. That’s why we’re so pleased that our 2014 fundraising has exceeded $20 million, down just $7 million from last year – and just as importantly, that each one of those dollars is being maximized with the lessons we learned from the first period, making our return on investment much greater.
  1. Partners are actually more engaged in the enrollment effort, not less. Many assumed that after all of the attention and excitement that came with the first enrollment period diminished, many partners would lose interest in doing enrollment work. But we’ve actually found the opposite to be true. The number of national and local organizations Enroll America partners with has nearly doubled since April to more than 4,600 – including more than 1,300 in-person assister organizations, and 400 health-care provider organizations. We’re also expanding and deepening existing partnerships, working directly with assister organizations to train their staff and plan targeted enrollment events throughout the enrollment period.

 

We always knew that while the first enrollment period was critical, the key to creating a stable, lasting system would be reaching consumers, maintaining stable financial support, and expanding partnerships in the second year. And thanks to a strong base of support, our smarter and more efficient campaign, new digital tools, and the vast coalition of partners engaged in this work, we are better positioned than ever to meet these challenges. Last year, all told, we reached more than 5 million consumers through field outreach, community organizations, our email program, and our digital campaign. Our staff and partners are passionate, trained, and ready to go, and we’re confident we’ll reach even more consumers this year with the information they need to enroll before the February 15 deadline.

 

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