June was a busy month for Enroll America – and not only because of the highly anticipated King v. Burwell Supreme Court case. Before the decision was announced, as the media focused on the doomsday implications that an adverse ruling might have, we hosted our second national State of Enrollment conference, where over 800 enrollment leaders from across the country joined us in Washington, DC to share, learn, and plan for the future of enrollment.
While the upcoming decision loomed overhead at the time, the enrollment coalition remained confident in the outcome and focused on our mission. And ultimately, the Supreme Court affirmed in its ruling what we’ve always known: the intent of the Affordable Care Act is to make health care affordable regardless of where people live, and nothing would change for consumers’ financial help. With all uncertainty cleared from our path, we can now dive head-on into readying for the third enrollment period and beyond. For Enroll America, this will include implementing programs built on our key takeaways from the conference:
- Year-round outreach is essential. For two years in a row, we’ve seen the power that year-round outreach is having on the enrollment effort. Although open enrollment only comes around once a year, engaging consumers throughout the year is essential. Not only do opportunities to enroll exist throughout the year, but building long-lasting relationships within communities reaps great rewards when open enrollment comes around. Having an active continual presence is critical to building trust with consumers and developing strategic partnerships, which is why we’re maintaining an on-the-ground presence in 11 states.
- Tools are a necessary investment in the future of this work. Over the last two years, Enroll America has created a suite of successful digital tools to help consumers and assisters better navigate the enrollment process. During the conference, we announced our ambitious plan to create the newest consumer-focused tool, the Get Covered Plan Explorer, to help consumers view and compare the health insurance options available so they can make educated decisions about the best plan for themselves and their family. We know from our research that the uninsured can lack confidence in picking a plan, so we’re excited to develop a solution based on very latest data and best practices for consumer-friendly digital tools.
- The fundamental messages the uninsured need to hear haven’t changed. The latest research on the uninsured shows that the key messages we need to communicate remain largely the same. First, we need to deliver just-the-facts information about the marketplace and their new health insurance options (half of the uninsured haven’t visited the marketplace yet). Second, we need to continue spreading the word about financial help and making sure people understand the increasing fine. And lastly, that instead of a one-way mass-marketing effort, we need to think of our messaging efforts as more of a dialogue that is going to become increasingly personalized and specific.
- Coordination and best-practice sharing needs to remain a top priority for the enrollment coalition. During the conference, it was encouraging to see some incredible ideas being shared and valuable connections made between folks doing similar work in different parts of the country. From workshops where in-person assisters shared their tips for guiding consumers through the plan selection process, to plenaries where keynote speakers discussed what past strategies worked best, attendees left with some valuable best practices to replicate in their work. But how can we continue to learn from each other and keep the momentum moving forward? At Enroll America, we’re dedicated to sharing out the latest findings with our partners through webinars and our training programs. And we’ll continue to share up information from our partners working on-the-ground with those making policy decisions as the consumer-focused voice in this work. As the effort continues, we must continue to deconstruct any remaining silos and work together to support both the remaining uninsured and newly insured.
Although we always felt confident in the outcome of the King v. Burwell case, it was a relief to finally be able to say with certainty that the Affordable Care Act—and its financial help—are here to stay. And with that crucial test behind us, we along with our thousands of partners around the country are ready to tackle the game plan we’ve laid out to make this third open 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 and retain health coverage made available through the Affordable Care Act.