In-Person Assistance: The Key to Enrolling People in Connecticut

At yesterday’s Access Health CT (AHCT) Board meeting, the message was loud and clear:  the remaining uninsured are concentrated in Connecticut’s cities.

The majority are African American and Latino/a.  Reaching them and enrolling them is going to require a high touch approach from trusted members of the community – not flashy commercials on television.  And that means a robust, well-coordinated in-person assistance effort.

The report, Evaluation of the Access Health CT Enrollment Experience in Connecticut

Raising up the Voices of Urban Consumers, Assisters and Navigators, provides a blueprint for how to improve outreach and enrollment efforts among hard-to-reach urban consumers.  The report highlights the findings of four different studies:  in-person surveys, a telephone survey, focus groups with in-person assisters and interviews with navigator staff.

A total of 164 consumers were surveyed in Bridgeport, New Haven and New Britain about their experience enrolling in private health insurance or Medicaid through Access Health CT. The report’s key findings include:

  • In-person assistance was by far the preferred mode of enrollment, over the helpline and the website
  • While overall satisfaction with AHCT was high among all populations, Latinos and African Americans had the highest rates of satisfaction with the enrollment process

The study also found that urban consumers were much more likely to hear about AHCT from word of mouth or family and friends. Another finding of the evaluation was that 35% of the uninsured still had never heard of Access Health CT in February and March 2014 when they were surveyed by telephone.

Based on these and other findings, a series of recommendations are presented in the report to improve outreach and in-person enrollment assistance to urban populations.  The recommendations focus on enhancing management, coordination, training and support for this vital program.

The findings and recommendations were presented yesterday at the Access Health CT Board meeting.  Throughout the meeting, from the public comment period through the end of the meeting when the evaluation was presented, there were multiple comments from both board and staff on the importance of in-person assistance for enrolling those who remain uninsured in Connecticut.  Yet, with the next open enrollment period fast approaching there is currently no plan in place.  The previous navigator and in-person assistance program has been completely dismantled and it is unclear whether the funding will be sought and the effort put in to rebuild the program.  Time is getting very short.  Now is the time to push decision makers to make good on their comments and assure an adequate, well-coordinated, year-round in-person assistance program is revived and maintained in Connecticut.

Evaluation of the Access Health CT Enrollment Experience in Connecticut: Raising up the Voices of Urban Consumers, Assisters and Navigators was written by Alycia Santilli, MSW and Jeannette Ickovics, PhD of CARE:  Community Alliance for Research and Engagement at the Yale School of Public Health.  Funding support was provided by Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, Connecticut Health Foundation and the Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation.  The views expressed in this brief are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the funders.

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