Expanding Access to Care for Young Adults Through the Right Outreach and Enrollment Strategies – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

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By Brian Burrell, Young Invincibles

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) marked
a historic expansion of access to health care for many people, and the federal
and state exchanges will be a large part of that reform.  Ideally, low- and middle-income
consumers will buy insurance with subsidies through online health benefit
exchanges, where they can compare the price, quality, and benefits of competing
plans.  Millions of those consumers
will be young adults.  However, in
order for the ACA to reach its true potential, states and the federal
government must engage in active outreach to those without coverage to ensure
that they take advantage of this new option.

 Indeed, web portals
will serve as the primary access point to the Exchanges, but could prove less
effective than anticipated if states don’t prepare proper outreach and
enrollment strategies.  
Perhaps surprisingly, many young people, and particularly young people
of color, may have a difficult time enrolling online.  Communities of color have less reliable Internet access than
whites, and young people of color disproportionately use smart phones to access
the Internet – in fact, smart phones are often their primary way of getting
online. But despite these facts, mobile devices may not sync well with Exchange
web portals, creating an additional barrier to access for the most frequently
uninsured Americans.

According to Young Invincibles and the Greenlining Institute’s new
removing that hurdle is vital for
successful implementation of the ACA. 
The report, titled The Health Benefit Exchange: Will Web Portals Work as
Planned?, recommends that Exchanges have mobile functionality due to the
increasing reliance of young people on their smart phones to access the
internet.  Below are
recommendations for designing the Exchanges and outreach plans that could help
increase enrollment, particularly for young people:

* Mobile Outreach: State governments are currently
required to come up with outreach plans to inform people about the changes
coming from the ACA.  By creating
advertisement campaigns that allow smart phone owners to text in their number
to receive further information about Exchanges, states could easily connect
with a large number of people.  A
similar campaign, text4baby, has reached over 175,000 moms to deliver prenatal

* Smartphone Enrollment App: To better reach young
people, states and the federal government should develop a fully functional
application for the exchange.  This
app would be designed specifically with smart phones in mind and allow users to
complete the entire exchange process from their phone.  Apps are an improvement over websites
because they can be downloaded and used offline but still can be updated with
new information.  They can also
provide far more functionality on smart phones than compared to a mobile web

* Mobile Integration: Exchange websites should be
designed to interact with mobile phones and allow customers to browse plans,
upload documents, and access customer support.  Adding text or smart phone alerts and notifications about
enrollment status would provide faster information and improved communication

Taking these steps will help facilitate young adult enrollment in new

Young Invincibles also released another report this month
on the important state role in implementing the ACA in a way that works well
for young adults. 

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