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Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Three Reasons to Follow Up with Consumers about Their Health Insurance

Heather Bates

Director of Community Engagement

As we near the end of the third open enrollment period under the Affordable Care Act, navigators and assisters are rightly focused on signing up as many people as they can for marketplace coverage before the January 31 deadline. At the same time, many are also putting more time and energy into a crucial element of an effective enrollment program: follow-up with consumers who are already enrolled. 

Follow-up by assisters helps to ensure consumers get the most out of their health coverage  

Proactive follow-up can accomplish three important results for your enrollment program:

  1. Establish consumer trust in you and your program
  2. Allow your work to have a lasting impact by helping consumers renew their coverage
  3. Give consumers the opportunity to ask questions and understand their coverage in order to get access to needed health care

Build on existing resources to incorporate follow-up into your enrollment program

Many assister programs across the country are incorporating follow-up activities into their existing programs and have developed concrete tools and resources to support this work. 

In a recent webinar about follow-up approaches, we featured the work of programs from three states:

The key to successful follow up with the consumers is to plan in advance for how you will reach out to them. From conversations with assisters around the country, we’ve gleaned the following best practices:

  1. Be sure to schedule your follow-up appointment for three or four weeks after the enrollment appointment. At the next appointment, make sure that consumers have received their health insurance card and comprehensive plan information, selected a primary care provider, and understand the importance of paying their premiums. 
  2. Once you complete that first follow-up appointment, schedule a second follow-up call or appointment to ask how they are using their coverage. Also, go a step further to ask what is important to them about having health insurance. Keep in mind that, as the consumer becomes more familiar with health insurance, post-enrollment education can help him or her become more informed about plan selection in future years. 

Health insurance is a new language for consumers

In order to get the most out of their coverage, there are many critical concepts that consumers will need your help understanding. This health insurance learning curve begins when assisters follow up with the consumer for post-enrollment education. 

A starter list of some information and concepts that consumers should understand:

  • Key dates for plan renewal, and when they are eligible to change plans or enroll in a special enrollment period
  • Their plan’s summary of benefits and coverage
  • How to read their insurance card
  • How to find a primary care provider
  • What constitutes preventive care and how to access it
  • How to prepare for your first doctor visit
  • Where and when to find a specialist
  • Differences between in-network and out-of-network benefits
  • Prescription drug coverage formularies and the difference between preferred pharmacies and mail order
  • What effect tax credits may have on their annual taxes

Resources to use with consumers to improve their grasp of health insurance concepts

Refer to our enrollment assister fact sheets during appointments to review key concepts with consumers. Look for more materials from groups that have produced consumer-friendly health insurance materials in Enroll America’s Health Insurance Literacy hub

Not only do consumers need to understand and apply these new concepts, they also must have this information available in their native language and written in a way that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. For example, our Spanish-language materials about health insurance can help. And there are other materials you can find through Enroll America’s Health Insurance Literacy Hub and the Office of Minority Health’s comprehensive resource toolkit.

Other helpful follow-up materials include Coverage to Care guides provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). You can see more post-enrollment education toolkits and resources by joining our Enrollment Assister Network or check out our Enrollment Assister Resource Center.

Follow-up serves as an additional outreach opportunity

In addition to all of these important reasons for incorporating follow-up into your existing enrollment programming, another major reason is that it serves as a method of longer-term, sustained outreach in your community. 

Following up with consumers after they enroll builds trust in your community, keeps them coming back for assistance, and increases the likelihood for future word-of-mouth referrals to your program.