On January 10, 2013, the total ACA enrollment totaled 9 million, following a cascade of education campaigns from health insurers, employers and federal and state governments. Getting the word out beforehand was a gargantuan effort.
At the federal level, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)website includes steps to coverage via the marketplace, specifics of coverage changes for different groups (e.g. women, those with pre-existing conditions) and key elements of the law. HHS has promoted social media spread of information using the hashtag #getcovered and a blog with narratives and stories highlighting personal benefits brought by the new law.
Since the ACA health insurance exchanges vary by state, state governments have been responsible to communicate the new law to citizens. Community Catalyst, a consumer health advocacy organization, created a guide for states,Strategies for Successful State Implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The New York Times published a Q&A: A Guide to the New Exchanges for Health Insurance.
Employers and health insurance companies have been preparing for some while to explain these new changes to current and prospective enrollees. Aflac, the largest provider of supplemental insurance in the United States, developed a health care communication toolkit.
To support enrollment efforts, Enroll America, a nonprofit whose mission is to maximize the number of uninsured who enroll in health insurance, has developed a wide range of tools. The most recent,Get Covered Guide: Understanding the New Health Insurance was co-authored by Lucy Berrington, who received her MS in Health Communication at Tufts. Her guide provides basic information, definitions and simple explanations of policies in plain language.
Health insurance enrollment has grown since exchanges opened in October, yet numbers are still short of their targets, according to both National Public Radio and The New York Times. In December poll the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 54% of non-elderly uninsured say they don’t have enough information to know how the law will affect them, and 69% say they’ve heard only a little or nothing about the new health insurance marketplace.
Were the communications developed in preparation for the ACA sufficient? Has the federal government successfully explained the new law? What about the state governments, and insurance companies? As a health communicator, what do you think?
Emily Oppenheimer ‘13, holds her MS in Health Communication from Tufts University School of Medicine. She’s lived in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Spain, New Mexico, and currently resides in NYC. She’s fascinated by how cultural competence and creative communication can improve health.