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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How Enrollment Assisters Can Get Involved in Public Policy Issues

Jane Sheehan

Senior Federal Relations Manager

Enrollment assisters have an important role to play in educating public officials about issues that consumers face. As trusted voices in their communities, assisters are in an ideal position to help decision-makers understand the health care issues that affect the consumers they work with, such as affordability and access to quality health care. Public policy outreach and education can help make a difference in the lives of millions. 

Assisters can educate public officials to help consumers  

Families USA created a public policy toolkit to help assisters effectively push for important policies and processes that can have an impact—at both the state and federal level—on the people assisters serve.  

Because of their interactions with consumers on the ground, enrollment assisters are uniquely positioned to share with public officials the changes needed to improve the health care system and eliminate gaps.

In many cases, enrollment assisters are already working to inform and educate public officials about issues that surface in their work. For example, by elevating consumer concerns to the state’s department of insurance, state Medicaid office, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, assisters are already educating the public officials whose job it is to find solutions for the people they serve. These important issues could range from how to design health plans with more affordable deductibles to making provider directories more accurate. 

With the third open enrollment in the rearview mirror and many 2016 state legislative sessions underway, now is the perfect time for assisters to get involved in public policy issues.  

Our public policy toolkit explains how assisters can get involved in policy issues that go beyond those related to consumer enrollment in coverage. We outline the basics of the policy process at the state and federal levels, from how a bill becomes a law to highlighting opportunities to contact public officials. (See the related infographic, How a Health Care Idea Becomes a Federal Law.)

Source of program funding may influence what activities an enrollment assister is allowed to conduct 

The toolkit also outlines when it is appropriate for assisters to engage in this type of work. We know that the scope of an assister’s activities may differ depending on the type of organization she works for and the sources of funding she receives. It is important to understand what an organization is permitted to do before engaging in this work.  

Additionally, we explore policy areas that assisters may consider getting involved in, ranging from making private health coverage more affordable to expanding Medicaid in the remaining states.  

Like most work, partnerships matter, so we provide examples of existing stakeholders and advocacy organizations by state and communities that assisters can partner with.  

Assisters are trusted messengers who should use their position to advocate for consumers 

Advocacy requires passion and persistence, and enrollment assisters have already developed these traits in their work. Assisters can and should serve as trusted messengers on behalf of their consumers and their programs to share concerns with public officials who can help.  

We hope that enrollment assisters and organizations will use this toolkit to learn more about how to use their voice at the state or federal level.  

Visit the Public Policy Toolkit for Enrollment Assisters