« November 2017 Issue

Open Enrollment 5: Unprecedented Levels of Uncertainty Require Unparalleled Partnerships

It is no surprise the GOP’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal efforts took a toll on the public’s knowledge of the upcoming open enrollment period, and the latest polling is sobering. National surveys from Perry/Undem, Get America Covered and the Kaiser Family Foundation demonstrated that fewer than one in four Americans is aware of this year’s open enrollment period, which began November 1 and ends for most states on December 15.

A series of interventions by the Trump administration and the Department of Health and Human Services, including a 90 percent reduction in open enrollment marketing and advertising and steep cuts to navigator grants, stoked unprecedented levels of uncertainty among consumers and within the health insurance marketplace. With public knowledge so low, it’s critical that other organizations, foundations, insurers and providers help fill in the void to ensure consumers are aware of their health insurance options.

Community Catalyst has a multipronged strategy to help get the word out about open enrollment that leverages our online community of enrollment assisters and broad network of state advocates. According to Dara Taylor, director of consumer assistance at Community Catalyst, this year provides both unique challenges and opportunities.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to In the Loop, our online assister community created in partnership with the National Health Law Program,” said Taylor. “In the Loop is the only centralized hub of information for over 5,000 enrollment assisters nationwide. Now in its fifth year, the site provides real-time support related to Marketplace policy issues and provides a platform for networking and collaboration within the enrollment assister community.”

Furthermore, Community Catalyst remains committed to working closely with our state and national partners, expanding our efforts with the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A recent grant from the foundation allows us to build upon our prior outreach activities to include the creation and dissemination of a broad suite of consumer-facing enrollment materials through a large and diverse network of organizations. Our national partners will help reach specific constituencies on the ground and include but are not limited to: the American Association on Health and Disability, Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, Black Women’s Health Imperative, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Urban League, Feeding America, Out2Enroll, and UnidosUS.

In addition to targeting consumers in states with the highest rates of the uninsured, Community Catalyst has created materials specifically designed to attract young adults, immigrants, persons of color and LGBTQ individuals to shop on the health insurance marketplace. A collaboration with Health Literacy Media and Raising Women’s Voices has been critical to this effort. In the two weeks since we released the first batch of materials, two social media graphics targeted toward African American women and the LGBTQ community have reached over 35,000 people.

With enrollment resources stretched thin, our coalitions on the ground remain an integral part of our outreach and enrollment efforts this year. In Missouri, where our Expanding Coverage through Technical Assistance project continues with support from Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH), Community Catalyst staff has led a series of regional summits designed to align and coordinate our efforts in the state.

This collaboration with enrollment assisters in the Show Me State, combined with the work of the Cover Missouri coalition, ensures Missourians understand their insurance options in light of the uncertainty in the health insurance marketplaces. This state-specific work as well as our continued consumer assistance efforts provided at the national level through In the Loop would not be possible without the support of MFH.

“Consumers in our state receive highly-skilled and knowledgeable help because hundreds of Navigators and Consumer Assistance Counselors regularly gain important enrollment information from In the Loop,” said Nancy Kelley, director for Expanding Coverage at MFH. “The assisters benefit not only from drawing on rich resources they can trust but also have the confidence-building opportunity to contribute to it. MFH supports In the Loop for Missouri because we recognize how complex it can be to understand the Marketplace as well as the many nuanced situations that consumers have.”

Although there is support for this work in Missouri, there is a much greater need for support across the country. A six-week open enrollment period presents a significant challenge. For those engaged in this work, we need you to lean in even further – bring coalition members or partners into your outreach and enrollment work. Others can help by sharing social media posts and other communications about enrollment opportunities with friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. And consider joining us by supporting In the Loop, Community Catalyst or a state or community-based organization that’s doing outreach and enrollment work in your community.

We need everyone’s help to ensure consumers know their options for 2018.

Stephen Eisele, Communications Manager, Community Catalyst

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Executive Director Rob Restuccia co-authored an article in the American Journal of Public Health, “How Dental Therapists Can Address the Social and Racial Disparities in Access to Care,” citing our Economic Viability of Dental Therapists report to illustrate why dental health care should be treated as an equally important aspect of overall care.

Senior Fellow John O’Brien co-authored an op-ed for STAT with attorney Jenifer Bosco of the National Consumer Law Center about how states can take action to curb medical debt.

The New York Times interviewed Senior Policy Analyst Ashley Blackburn in an article highlighting the impending threat of “junk insurance” plans during July’s negotiations of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

Community Catalyst board member Anton Gunn penned an op-ed for The Hill about his time on the “Drive For Our Lives” bus tour, where he traveled the country with health care advocates to fight for affordable, comprehensive health care for all.

The Associated Press quoted Executive Director Rob Restuccia criticizing the Trump administration’s decision to gut funding for navigators in a report on budget cuts in 18 cities.

The Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation’s report with Leading Age was cited in a Forbes op-ed, which argued the importance of comprehensive health policy that keeps aging patients in mind, as well as patient-centered practices from health care providers for older Americans.

This fall, Community Catalyst was pleased to promote Diane Felicio to Chief Operating Officer, Reena Singh to Chief Program Officer, and Andi Mullin to Project Manager for the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation.

Join us in welcoming new staff members: Mara Blessoff, Executive Assistant; Joshua Matfess, Community Engagement Associate; Kiralee McCauley, Manager, Finance and Operations; Julia Watson, Program Associate, Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation; Kasey Wilson, Policy Analyst, Dental Health Access Project; Diana Zheng, Outreach & Engagement Coordinator, Raising Women’s Voices.

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