ObamaCare outreach campaigns microtargeting uninsured

ObamaCare outreach campaigns across the country are diving deeper into the hard-to-reach uninsured populations such as rural areas with hopes of driving up enrollment in its second year, several state directors said Wednesday.

“We have a much better sense because of data from the federal government on where are the uninsured,” Ryan Barker, vice president of health policy for the Missouri Foundation for Health, said in a conference call hosted by Families USA.

The Michigan Primary Care Association said it is trying to “fill the gaps” of health insurance coverage by relocating a majority of its staff to rural, less-populated areas.

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“We have certainly relocated and refocused our capacity in rural areas,” said Phillip J. Bergquist, the group’s director of healthcare operations. “We try to focus on areas where we’re seeing gaps in capacity and low levels of performance.”

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as states nationwide, has made it a priority to help sign up the tens of millions of people who remain uninsured as ObamaCare enters its second year. 

As a result, navigators — or people who are paid by the government to help with healthcare signups — are focusing their attention particularly in low-income or non-English speaking neighborhoods. The strategies include using mobile assistance, partnering with community groups and making enrollment events more accessible.

Jodi Ray, who has led outreach for the group Florida Covering Kids & Families, said navigators in the state are being careful not to use a “one-size fits all approach.”

“The diversity of our geography and demographics requires that we spend a lot of time being flexible and creative in our outreach,” she said.

The state directors from Missouri, Florida, Illinois and Michigan added that they are benefiting from a far better open enrollment period so far because nearly all of the issues that sunk HealthCare.gov last year have been resolved.

Still, they said they face new challenges in the second year such as a shorter sign-up period and a new process to re-enroll existing customers.

Philip Burquest, head of the Primary Care Association in Michigan, said he has seen a flurry of activity from new customers over the last month.

“We are seeing lots of folks who didn’t take advantage of the first open enrollment period,” he said.