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Thursday, August 13, 2015

How to Help Assisters Thrive in Local Communities

Jessica Kendall

Director of State Partnerships

Thousands of enrollment assisters across the country have worked tirelessly to help consumers sign up for coverage, often under stressful circumstances with little support. These assisters typically work independently in their communities, and it’s important to prevent them from feeling isolated or burned out. This blog shares creative ways that organizations can support and motivate enrollment assisters.  

We know how much assisters contribute to the success of the enrollment process, which is why it’s crucial that advocacy groups and organizations help support them in their work. In a recent webinar, we invited three groups from different states to discuss strategies for making sure assisters feel supported in their work. 

Tips for setting up enrollment assisters for success

Many enrollment assisters are the sole person at their organization (or even in their communities) who focuses on helping consumers sign up for health insurance. This can be very isolating for enrollment assisters as they may not have colleagues to turn to for support, advice, or consultation. Even President Obama recently acknowledged the challenging nature of their work

Our partners in Maine, Ohio, and Wisconsin are working to address this in a variety of ways. Some of their tips included encouraging enrollment assisters to tap into local resources and coalitions early on. This not only helps with their public education and outreach, it provides them with peers in communities that may not have other enrollment assisters. Here’s what else they’re doing to address the motivation factor:

  • Wisconsin: Covering Kids and Families assisted its navigators in creating work plans. It also provided assisters with a comprehensive guide of topics that they may encounter in their work. In addition, Covering Kids provided bi-weekly phone calls to help navigators communicate with one another, which offered them an opportunity to hear the latest policy updates, strategies, and tactics in the field. 
  • Maine: Consumers for Affordable Health Care played a vital role in supporting enrollment assisters around the state. It implemented bi-annual trainings for enrollment assisters, maintained a statewide network of communication through a listserv and telephone hotline, and organized regional round tables. To ease into the roundtables, the group helped enrollment assisters identify coalitions and groups to invite, provided sample meeting agendas, and offered technical support to help identify what would work best in each community. 
  • Ohio: The Ohio Association of Food Banks has used many of the tactics mentioned above. It is even developing a mentorship program for its navigators. The group plans to encourage new navigators to team up with more seasoned ones and is developing a template to encourage the mentorship. It’s also encouraging other coalitions to participate in the mentorship program. The group intends to recognize certain individuals’ expertise to share with other members to start conversations and collaboration across different areas. 

Tips on hiring enrollment assisters

Our partners also shared ideas about staffing that will lead to more successful enrollment efforts. These included:

  • Work with organizations that are already embedded in local communities and encourage them to hire local staff who are already part of the target area. 
  • Encourage organizations to hire their current staff for enrollment assister positions. It’s time-consuming training people on the intricate policies and procedures necessary for the job. By hiring people who have experience, you can save time on recruitment and orientation.
  • Encourage enrollment assisters to tap into local resources and coalitions early on. This will not only help with their public education and outreach, it will provide them with peers in communities that may not have other enrollment assisters.

Supporting and retaining staff in the upcoming years will be crucial as we continue our enrollment efforts. If you have suggestions on how to improve support for enrollment assisters or for the type of support you would like to receive, email us at assisters@familiesusa.org to share your ideas.

Visit our Enrollment Assister Resource Center to listen to the webinar “Connecting Assisters on the Ground” and browse our library of health insurance information.

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