Gearing Up for November 1 Open Enrollment

With only three weeks to go until Covered California’s next open enrollment (November 1-January 31), today’s meeting of the Marketing, Outreach, and Enrollment Assistance Advisory Committee was packed with helpful information about Covered California’s research-driven strategies to maximize enrollment, especially in communities of color, and to help enrollees find their way into the best plan. Many of the strategies are informed by survey results on enrollee experience in 2014-15. Complete survey results should be released in tomorrow’s Covered CA Board Meeting.


Marketing Strategies for Nov. 1: Building the Brand, While Showing Value of Insurance

Current marketing strategies respond to survey results showing that many California consumers are aware of Covered CA, but many still are unfamiliar with the value of insurance. Consumers are more aware of the penalty than they are of the subsidies that make it possible to avoid the penalty and enjoy the benefits and protections of affordable coverage. Marketing efforts will accordingly continue building the Covered CA brand as a place to find unbiased information about insurance options while demonstrating the value of insurance and helping consumers select the right plan.

Marketing and outreach to communities of color and LEP (Limited English Proficiency) communities is more targeted this year, both in terms of fine tuning messaging for distinct groups like LGBT communities and community preferences for media platforms (TV, radio, social media, etc.). For many communities, TV still “rules the world” as the main venue for information sharing, with radio and internet also critical (explore some of those differences once the presentation is posted here).

Consumers’ preference for a clearer “journey to enrollment” has Covered CA working to simplify the web page interface and create a mobile version for the growing number of low-income consumers who rely on smart phones for internet access. Social media platforms have been useful for consumers having difficult with customer services and complaint processes. Marketing efforts are embracing this opportunity to educate consumers about the purpose of insurance, while retaining social media’s practical function as a back up to customer service. For all subpopulations surveyed, use of social media is steadily growing.

Communications and Messaging Strategies

Earned media about Covered CA and the ACA in California has been extensive and helpful even in driving enrollment. Recent polling showing the ACA’s popularity not just overall in California but for distinct demographics is a testament to forthright implementation efforts in California—and with full engagement of Covered California’s many community partners. One concern going forward will be how to keep the drumbeat going in the media as the ACA becomes less fraught with controversy over time. It may take longer than this to target the state’s many eligible but still uninsured.

For some targeted communities, last year’s “I’m In” messaging campaign won’t be the primary frame this year–while it was meant to be welcoming, some heard it as exclusionary: that if “I’m In,” you must be “out.” This messaging will thus be more limited in the coming open enrollment.

Outreach and Sales
With 69 navigator grantees, over 400 certified enrollment counselors, and about 1,500 plan-based assisters, Covered CA’s commitment to targeting those still uninsured has not waned. In fact, given that over 70% of enrollees got help enrolling in coverage, enrollment entities will have dedicated service centers and training resources.

Community partners seeking to maximize enrollment in 2015-16 for under-enrolled groups should avail themselves of Covered CA’s new GIS mapping capabilities (on view at tomorrow’s full Covered CA Board meeting) and “heat maps” illustrating enrollment target populations and sub-populations (including languages spoken and eligibility for premium tax subsidies) and enrollment resources by discrete geographies. These will be online for broad use by November 1.