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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Countdown to November 15: Resources to Help Navigators and Assisters Meet Common Challenges

Jessica Kendall

Director of State Partnerships

As we gear up for November 15, it’s crucial that navigators and assisters know about the resources that are available to help make this open enrollment period a success.

Through our Enrollment Assister Resource Center, Families USA has developed our own resources and compiled materials from others to help you assist consumers during open enrollment. Whether you need guidance with implementing outreach, helping consumers understand their health coverage, or using the media to share consumers’ stories, we’ve got you covered. Here are three common challenges assisters face and resources that address them.

Challenge #1: Consumers don’t understand how to use their health insurance

The solution: Explain complicated information in plain language, and make plain language materials available.

An important lesson we learned during last open enrollment was that, as important as it is to reach consumers, it is equally important to speak to them in a language they understand. In the first open enrollment period, assisters realized that many consumers weren’t familiar with basic health insurance concepts, especially if they have never previously had insurance. This showed that, when consumers are choosing a health plan, they need high-quality, understandable materials that explain important terms and processes.

In our Enrollment Assister Resource Center you’ll find fact sheets you can distribute that contain consumer-friendly information on a number of topics:

Challenge #2: Getting the word out as widely as possible

The solution: Help consumers share their enrollment stories and work with the media to promote your program.

Assisters have their work cut out for them when it comes to reaching new consumers. During the first open enrollment period, navigator and assister programs found story banking and media coverage to be useful in their outreach efforts.

Story banking: When those who have enrolled share their success story, it’s a powerful outreach tool. Uninsured consumers are motivated to apply for health coverage when they hear that someone like them was able to get health coverage. Visit to learn about collecting stories from consumers. To learn more about how to talk with consumers about sharing their stories, and what other organizations are doing, download our guide for engaging young adults or listen to this webinar we hosted on story banking

Working with the media: Partnering with the media can help you reach a broader audience. It’s cost effective to use media to spread the word that consumers can get health coverage and financial assistance to pay for it. Invite the press to local events that you host. Use this opportunity to promote the event and spread the word that there is help for consumers interested in applying for health coverage. This is an effective way to reach a lot of people and frees up time so groups can focus on education and enrollment assistance.

Working with the media may seem daunting, but it’s a valuable tool for publicizing enrollment. Get advice for working with the media by listening to the webinar we organized in September for navigators and assisters.

Challenge #3: Enrollment programs can make better use of staff and resources.

The solution: Assess your program design.

To ensure that your program is as successful and efficient as possible, you should continuously monitor and evaluate your resources and the skills of your staff and volunteers.

  1. Maximize the skills of volunteers. Volunteers allow the program to reach more consumers and help them apply for coverage. Our newest issue brief walks you through the considerations for setting up a volunteer program, training, and offers tips for how best to use different types of volunteers.
  2. Partner with other groups. This not only helps programs divide and conquer tasks, but it also advances your goal of contacting hard-to-reach populations. Assisters can reach consumers in person or through tapping into their trusted networks. These include groups that consumers turn to for local information, such as faith-based organizations, health centers, or even thrift stores. Read more in this article from Enroll America about Wisconsin’s experience partnering with other groups.
  3. Match people’s skills with organizational needs so effort isn’t duplicated or wasted. For example, if one staff member is really good at explaining notices and solving problems, and another is great at public speaking, divide their time to better take advantage of their individual strengths rather than focusing all of their efforts in the same areas.

The diagram below illustrates one way to think through organizational structure to address further capacity. If you’d like to talk through this through with an expert, please email us:

While there are fewer days in the second open enrollment period, we’re confident that with the right resources, navigators and assisters will be able to hit the ground running and enroll consumers in health coverage.