There’s good news today for millions of Americans. Now that open enrollment has started, they have a chance to sign up for quality, affordable health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
They just might not have heard anything about it.
The Trump administration seems to be doing everything it can to make it harder for people to hear about how they can get covered at HealthCare.gov.
But we can all fill in the gaps with tried-and-true messages and proven outreach strategies. You can get the word to your friends and family. You can get your organization involved. You can post about it on social media, hang up flyers, or make announcements at local community groups.
The Affordable Care Act has been a historic success — with nearly twenty million people gaining health coverage — but that’s only because of individual activists and people at health centers, hospital, faith groups, civil rights organizations, food banks, libraries, and more who’ve stepped up to help communities get covered and stay covered.
Here’s what people need to know
I was on the digital team at Enroll America, an organization dedicated to maximizing the number of people with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, for over two and a half years. We worked to make sure health coverage advocates had the resources they needed to get the word out about the Affordable Care Act.
We learned that there are a few main messages that people need to hear when they’re looking for health coverage. Use these to cut through the clutter.
1. “Financial help is available..”
Start with this. More than 8 in 10 people who’ve gotten covered through the marketplaces qualified for financial help, with most plans costing less than $100 a month. This is the most important thing people need to know, especially if health insurance had been too expensive before the ACA.
Note: “Financial help” is more straightforward than “tax credits” or “subsidies.”
Encourage people to get the facts about what their health insurance options will cost. Even if the White House successfully cuts off payments for cost-sharing reductions, people will still get financial help, and they’ll still be protected from premium increases — a lot of people might even be able to find lower prices! Don’t get in the weeds on the politics. Just help people figure out their own situation.
2. “Local help is available — you can sit down with someone and walk through the application together.”
Use the Get Covered Connector to help people find and schedule free appointments to get in-person help to get covered. It’s a tool developed by Enroll America’s Get Covered America campaign, and currently run by Young Invincibles.
When people commit to an appointment, they’re more likely to follow through and sign up for health coverage — and the Connector can send text text and email reminders. During the second open enrollment period, people who got in-person help were nearly 60 percent more likely to successfully enroll.
So, share the link to the Connector all over your social media. Put it on your organization’s website. Tattoo the URL to your forehead: www.getcoveredamerica.org (O.K., a tattoo might be going too far. But, you know, consider it.)
3. “Sign up by the December 15 deadline, or you might have to pay a fine.”
The last few days of open enrollment will be some of the busiest, and there’ll be even more demand for information and in-person help. Deadlines motivate people! Just think about Tax Day.
Some states — California and New York, for example — don’t use HealthCare.gov, and some of those states have extended their deadlines to go into January. Find out your state’s deadline here, and make sure you use it to motivate people to sign up in time.
Even if people already have health insurance through the marketplaces, they need to know that open enrollment is also the time to review their new options for 2018. They might be able to find cheaper options for next year, or a plan that covers more of the doctors they want to see.
Get Covered America ran message research around the individual mandate and found that the world “fine” — instead of “penalty” or “fee” — was clearest to get people to take action.
Let’s do this.
If you’re fired up and ready to go, check out these lessons and how-to guides from Enroll America, including key talking points.
Find out how you can get involved with Get America Covered, a new outreach campaign run by Obama administration alums. And check out this enrollment outreach toolkit from Organizing for Action.
Together, we can help people get the care they need. We can do what the current White House won’t. As an infinitely better president once said, “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”