Just two months from the opening of the third open-enrollment season, state-based exchanges are looking for innovative ways to aid people when signing up for health insurance coverage.
State governments supporting the Affordable Care Act are looking to bolster partnerships with brokers and influential groups and individuals in local communities. They also will make greater use of mobile technology to make signing up easier when enrollment opens on Nov. 1.
Last year, 2.8 million people enrolled or re-enrolled in plans sold on the 14 state-based exchanges versus the 8.8 million that signed up in the 37 states relying on HealthCare.gov to enroll members, according to HHS.
In Colorado, exchange officials say they've been inspired by the runaway success of Uber as they head into the third open-enrollment season.
“Our customers will be able to go to our website and ask for immediate assistance. Their contact information will be made available to participating brokers—much like an Uber driver is offered fares,” said Luke Clarke, a spokesman for Connect for Health Colorado. “Their information is rolled over to brokers until one picks it up and contacts the customer.”
If a customer calls in and is placed on hold, customers will be offered the option of having their contact information texted to a participating broker.
The exchange also will add transparency to the process after someone signs up for a plan. Consumers or their brokers will be able to log into their account and confirm the date they enrolled, when Connect for Health Colorado sent the enrollment information to the carrier and when the carrier received it. Until now, they had to rely on a customer service rep to figure out where they were in the process, Clarke said.
“All of these measures are aimed at improving our customers' experience while driving efficiency in customer service,” he said.
In Rhode Island, exchange officials are working on a partnership with the United Way that will give exchange customers put on hold the option to call United Way of Rhode Island's 2-1-1 phone line for general information and for finding in-person assistance in the community or at outreach events, according to exchange spokeswoman Maria Tocco.
The exchange also plans to add an auto-renewal function to ensure continuity of coverage for existing customers who miss the renewal deadline, Tocco added.
Connecticut is giving a larger role to brokers. Previously, they could only help consumers if they were on-site at the exchange call center. This year, they will have calls routed to their offices, which should entice more broker involvement, according to Jim Wadleigh, CEO of Access Health CT, the state's health insurance exchange.
“This will share the business more broadly and result in even better customer service,” Wadleigh said.
The exchange also plans to launch a new decisionmaking tool, which will help consumers choose between the different plans based on their medical history. Many who chose bronze plans last year because of their lower monthly cost have been disappointed by the high deductible that must be met before the plan reimburses for services, Wadleigh said.
Maryland, which adopted Connecticut's exchange model, will launch a pilot program for the upcoming open enrollment season where it will also transfer consumer calls from a call center directly to a broker, according to Andrew Ratner, a spokesman for the Maryland exchange. The states hopes the move will shorten wait times, shorten call times and maximize the number of consumers assisted.
The brokers are also being encouraged to offer expert advice on plan selection, Ratner said.