ACA Advocates Alter Strategies for Second Open Enrollment Period
Affordable Care Act advocates are preparing for the second open enrollment period by targeting the millions of consumers who mostly for financial reasons did not sign up for coverage last fall, Kaiser Health News/Washington Post reports.
In the initial open enrollment period, more than 7.3 million people purchased coverage through the ACA's health insurance exchanges, while almost eight million U.S. residents enrolled in Medicaid.
Starting Nov. 15, the federal government and ACA supporters will work to renew coverage for those who already signed up and encourage about six million additional uninsured residents to sign up through the exchanges. Meanwhile, officials also will try to sign up four million people for Medicaid, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
However, convincing people to purchase coverage will be more difficult in the second open enrollment period than in the first, as those who were most motivated to get coverage already have done so, according to the KHN/Post. In addition, the second open enrollment period is only three months long, which is half as long as the first round.
Advocates Prepare New Pitch, Face Many Challenges
According to the KHN/Post, states previously persuaded consumers to sign up for coverage by touting the benefits of having health insurance. In the second open enrollment period, advocates plan to highlight financial reasons for enrolling.
For example, officials will make consumers aware of the financial assistance available. In addition, they plan to focus on the financial penalties for not enrolling. This year, individuals without insurance can be fined $325 or 2% of income, whichever is larger, up from $95 or 1% of their income.
Michael Marchand, director of communications of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, said, "People dismissed the penalty a little bit last year." He added that increased fines could act as an "awakening" for consumers and change their minds to enroll.
However, consumers are more concerned with the cost of plans than they are with penalties, according to the KHN/Post. Specifically, about 60% of uninsured consumers as of June said they could not afford coverage, according to data from the Urban Institute.
Sharon Long, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said states and the federal government need to improve the way they educate consumers. She noted that many uninsured consumers who cited cost as a reason for not signing up were unaware that they were eligible for subsidies.
Other target demographics include uninsured adults who are in a "coverage gap," in which their incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but too low to receive subsidies to purchase coverage through the exchanges.
Further, Latinos also are difficult to reach because:
- Some are worried of revealing their immigration statuses;
- Timely information is not distributed in Spanish; and
- There are too few bilingual enrollment workers to provide assistance.
Meanwhile, some ACA advocates have said the exchanges need to spend more on outreach and education. Bonnie Kwon -- a program manager at the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum -- said if potential enrollees "are coming from a country that has a completely different system, they don’t understand copays, they don’t understand deductibles" (Gorman/Appleby, Kaiser Health News/Washington Post, 10/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.