Article

Get Covered America campaign kicks off

August 1, 2013

CHA encourages enrollment efforts

A major public awareness and enrollment campaign is taking shape as the Enroll America coalition works to educate Americans on new health care coverage options.

On Oct. 1, enrollment will open in state-based insurance exchanges or "marketplaces" created by the Affordable Care Act. Public opinion research shows that many of those eligible to purchase coverage and receive income-based premium subsidies through the marketplaces are unaware that they will be able to obtain affordable health insurance. Similarly, many low-income individuals who live in states that agree to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act would be eligible for coverage effective Jan. 1, but they are unaware that they could get the insurance, let alone what they need to do to when enrollment opens in October.

The Supreme Court's landmark 2012 decision on the Affordable Care Act made the Medicaid expansion optional for states. Twenty-six states have said they will offer the expanded coverage, which is paid for almost entirely by the federal government. Another 19 states have said they are not participating or leaning against it, and five are pursuing another model or still considering the options, according to the Advisory Board Company, which is tracking Medicaid expansion.

Enroll America, a coalition of health care organizations including CHA, advocacy groups and pharmaceutical companies recently launched the Get Covered America campaign, a multifaceted public awareness and enrollment push to teach people about new health coverage options and steer eligible individuals to the resource best suited to help them enroll — online, on the phone or in person.

"I am very optimistic," said Ron Pollack, executive director of the nonprofit consumer group Families USA, and an Enroll America board member. "Enroll America is positioning itself very well to organize an effective campaign that will result in many people getting health insurance coverage."

Most people will sign up for coverage online, and the Get Covered America campaign will wage a broad-based social media campaign to connect people with healthcare.gov, the hub for online enrollment, and other resources that can answer questions and help with coverage decisions.

A ministry partner
CHA is a founding partner in Enroll America, and the association's President and Chief Executive Officer Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, serves on its board.

"Enroll America is vitally important as we work to get health coverage for those who are newly eligible," Sr. Carol said. "The coalition is a partner for Catholic hospitals and health systems that are themselves developing outreach programs, enrollment events, social media messages and other ways to inform their communities and help sign up people for coverage."

Shoe leather campaign
Enroll America currently has nearly 100 staff members in its Washington, D.C. office. The group also is hiring field staff and recruiting volunteers in communities around the country to coordinate with local groups and meet one-on-one with coverage-eligible people in neighborhoods, churches, schools, clinics, libraries and other venues where enrollment information can be shared.

"The personal touch that will take place in the priority locations through staff, volunteers, and a significant number of events will be the most important thing," Pollack said.

The week of its launch, June 17, Get Covered America convened 75 local events, according to Enroll America officials.

Ready, get set, enroll
As part of the enrollment effort, CHA recently released "Ready, Get Set, Enroll," a short video to explain health insurance eligibility and enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. The video, which many Catholic hospitals have posted on their websites and Facebook pages, includes a segment on presumptive eligibility, the policy that enables hospitals to enroll patients in Medicaid on the spot, even in the emergency room, until their official application can be processed.

At the invitation of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., CHA officials recently showed the enrollment video to approximately 30 members of the House Democratic policy committee.

In connection with the video presentation, Mike Rodgers, CHA's senior vice president of advocacy and public policy, and Jeff Tieman, the association's chief of staff, participated in a panel discussion about enrollment. Others on the panel represented the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association.

Party leaders encouraged fellow lawmakers to post CHA's enrollment video on their websites and to stay in close contact with groups educating the public about new coverage opportunities.

> Watch and share CHA's enrollment video.

Mass communications
In addition to grassroots activities, Get Covered America will secure paid advertising and media coverage to generate interest and direct people to resources in their respective states.

CHA is developing tools to help hospitals inform their patients and get involved in the enrollment effort. Materials will be posted on CHA's website as they become available.

Sisters of Charity Health System in Cleveland is among the many Catholic-sponsored providers engaging community partners, crafting enrollment plans and delivering messages on social media to help spread the word.

"We supported passage of the Affordable Care Act because it offered millions of Americans the dignity of health coverage," said Robin Bachman, assistant vice president of government affairs and public policy at the Sisters of Charity Health

System. "Today, the focus of our advocacy is to reach, raise awareness and educate all those who are newly eligible for health coverage that can change their lives."