It’s that time of year again. With November on the horizon, that means leaves are starting to change color, Turkey Day plans are being made and, of course, open enrollment season on the insurance exchanges is about to commence. What’s your hospital doing to make sure that its community members are signing up for this crucial coverage?
Open enrollment for those looking to gain insurance coverage as part of the Affordable Care Acts starts in a little over a week, on Nov. 1, running through the end of January. Just last year, some 7.3 million people signed up for insurance through the marketplaces, and another 8 million through Medicaid.
In the coming months, hospitals will be sought out for health plan details, and it’s critical that they seize that role and help members of their community sign up, says Shellie Byrum, senior associate director of communication strategies at the American Hospital Association.
“Hospitals and health systems really are the go-to, trusted information source for everything health care,” she says. “So, it’s really important for them to be the ones to encourage their community to take a look at living the healthiest life that they can, and that includes getting health coverage.”
To aid in that push, the AHA has a wealth of resources at its “Get Enrolled” webpage. Those include everything from an enrollment toolkit to past webinars on the topic, a glossary of health coverage terms to help those unfamiliar, and a calculator to determine health insurance costs for each individual.
Every few weeks, the AHA is sharing stories on its website, highlighting what specific hospitals are doing to advocate for coverage in their communities. This month, it’s six-hospital Wellmont Health System, which is based in Kingsport, Tenn. The integrated health network estimates that there are more than 400,000 uninsured who qualify for coverage in the Volunteer State, but aren’t signing up, in some cases, because they’re unaware of tax credits available to offset premiums.
To address that, Wellmont has hired four certified insurance navigators, assigning each of them a geographic territory and placing them in offices in their acute care hospitals. Activities on the docket will include community events, radio and TV announcements, billboards and social media advertisements. They’re also investing in technology, such as tablets and mobile printers, so that outpatient sites can function as enrollment centers.
Byrum notes that, while hospitals should target self-pay patients for enrollment when they visit their facilities, it’s also key that they find ways to branch out into the community and help folks who aren’t visiting the hospital to enroll. Wellmont is also making a point of continuing its efforts throughout the year.
“It’s important for us to stay visible and talk to people about coverage not just during open enrollment,” Martha Pearson, the system’s director of patient access, tells the AHA. “Otherwise, it’s out of sight, out of mind.”