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Boots on the Ground: ACA Outreach and Enrollment Efforts in California!

NN/LM PSR Consumer Health & Technology Coordinator Kelli Ham attended an event hosted by the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network (CPEHN) on October 15, 2013, for stakeholders involved with the Affordable Care Act. The four-hour session was titled A New Era of Coverage: Maximizing Participation in the ACA and was held at the California Endowment in Los Angeles. Attendees included county agencies, certified enrollment counselors, outreach and education grantee organizations, health plans, and insurance companies.

The session was well worth attending! I was able to hear first-hand about ‘boots on the ground’ efforts to educate California residents about the new health insurance law and to help them sign up for accounts, learn about their options, and enroll in a health insurance plan. In addition, we all participated in a group activity in the afternoon which was a very productive exercise; groups responded to questions and brainstormed ideas for outreach to “hard-to-reach” communities, such as immigrants, limited-English proficient, homeless/re-entry populations, and low wage/part-time workers. Groups discussed the barriers and strategies for reaching the population and enrolling them in health coverage. Potential partner organizations and agencies were also identified.

The results of this activity were enlightening; while each group suggested standard approaches, many ideas were proposed that would work well for outreach from the NN/LM standpoint. For instance, our group chose ‘Young Immigrants’ as our target population. Some of the barriers identified for this group were the distrust of government agencies, immigration status and fear of deportation, lack of perceived need for health insurance (young invincibles), and language difficulties. Strategies for reaching this population included the use of social media, mobile apps, tables at street fairs, outreach at clubs, ads on public transportation (bus, Metro), adult schools, and ESL classes. Word of mouth is also powerful, so recruiting young people from this group is another strategy. Possible partnering organizations would be non-profits that deal with undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children, other legal organizations, local clinics, and Planned Parenthood, to name a few.

Since the Covered California website had only been up and running for a few weeks, few statistics were available. According to one of the presenters, the website had over 987,000 unique visits during the first week. Combining telephone contacts and the web site, there were over 43,000 applications and over 16,000 household applications were completed. More statistics will be released in the near future.

Anyone who is interested in attending local workshops or presentations can see announcements on the Covered California Twitter feed, @coveredca, or view news and upcoming events at the Covered California News Center page. Libraries might be interested in hosting a program with outreach and education counselors; the best way to find local grantee organizations is to download the updated PDF file Outreach and Education Grant Program Award Recipients, dated August 20, 2013. Also, library patrons might be interested in applying by phone rather than the website. According to Covered California, it takes less than an hour to enroll in a Covered California health plan by phone. Service centers are open weekdays 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. – 6 p.m, available at 800-300-1506.

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