Online Enrollment Program for Healthy Families and Medi-Cal Announced
The California HealthCare Foundation, in partnership with the California Health and Human Services Agency and the Medi-Cal Policy Institute, yesterday unveiled the nation's first online enrollment program for children and pregnant women eligible for public health coverage. Called Health-e-App, the project aims to boost enrollment in Healthy Families and Medi-Cal by streamlining the application process for those plans. Instead of filling out the lengthy, traditional mail-in form, Health-e-App users apply for coverage by completing and submitting a simple online application. Currently being pilot tested in San Diego County, Health-e-App is available in English, Spanish and read-aloud text for the visually impaired. Sam Karp, chief information officer for the California HealthCare Foundation, said that the groups hoped to eventually install Health-e-App programs in areas "frequented by families [eligible for] Healthy Families," such as clinics, community-based organizations and other sites.
Health-e-App was developed as a "consumer-friendly" approach to increasing enrollment in Healthy Families and Medi-Cal, Sandra Shewry, executive director of the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board, said. Gail Margolis, deputy director of the state's Department of Health Services, added that the enrollment processes for the two programs have traditionally been "cumbersome and difficult," a problem that Health-e-App will help solve. To apply for coverage using Health-e-App, users -- either alone or with an eligibility assistant -- log on to the program's Web site and type in their personal information. Almost immediately after submitting their data, applicants receive a response informing them of their eligibility. Applicants then choose a provider or health plan and fill out an application form, which they sign with an electronic signature. After submitting the form, applicants receive a message informing them that the application was successfully sent. Applicants are notified by mail when they are enrolled. Previously, applicants had to wait several weeks to learn whether they were eligible for public health coverage (Meredith McGroarty, California Healthline, 1/24).
Steve Escoboza, interim director of San Diego County's Health and Human Services Agency, said, "Many families are discouraged by the lengthy enrollment process and the amount of time it takes to determine if they are eligible for these programs. Health-e-App could change all that" (CHCF release, 1/23). Karp said, "Health-e-App provides a fast, secure and consumer-friendly way to enroll in public health insurance programs. It offers real-time preliminary determination of eligibility, as well as real-time selection of physicians and health plans" (Gearson, Reuters Health, 1/23). In addition to providing applicants with an immediate response regarding their eligibility, Health-e-App has an "error-check" system that scans for possible typographical mistakes. Medi-Cal Policy Institute Director Crystal Hayling called Health-e-App "secure and reliable," noting that all users logging on to the site must first sign in (McGroarty, California Healthline, 1/24).
Currently two million Californian children lack health insurance, though Healthy Families and Medi-Cal "have the potential" to provide coverage for 75% of uninsured children under age 19 (TheSanDiegoChannel.com, 1/23). Grantland Johnson, secretary of the state's Health and Human Services Agency, said that Health-e-App marks an "important step" toward improving children's health. Streamlining the application process, Johnson said, is "key to increasing coverage for the state's uninsured children." Johnson added that by reducing the amount of time and paperwork involved with the application process, the program also reduces the "stigma" and "intrusiveness" that may keep some individuals from applying for coverage (McGroarty, California Healthline, 1/24). "Health-e-App is a great example of an effective public-private partnership providing a strategic investment to make government programs more accessible," Johnson added (CHCF release, 1/23).
Health-e-App's developers hope that the pilot program will be extended beyond its Feb. 2 end date (McGroarty, California Healthline, 1/24). After the pilot test is completed, the state will analyze the results of the trial and design an implementation plan and timeline. Health-e-App is expected to be available for statewide implementation in the spring of 2001 (Health-e-App Web site, 1/23). To visit the Health-e-App Web site and try a demonstration of the program, go to http://www.healtheapp.org/Healtheapp/default.asp.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.