Open Enrollment Kick-Off: Everything is Bigger In Texas!

October 5, 2018 | Heather Bates and Liz Hagan

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Heather Bates and Liz Hagan participated in the annual outreach and enrollment conference in Texas. This event was co-hosted by the Texas Association of Community Health Centers (TACHC) and the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP).  Like the rest of the country, budgets and support for in-person outreach and enrollment convenings is limited due to funding cuts for enrollment navigation. But the conference made it crystal clear that there is appetite for more training, information, and opportunities to learn from one another and that there is continued pressing need from consumers. Generous sponsorships provided by their partners in Texas and the hard work of CPPP and TACHC allowed for nearly 200 Certified Application Counselors (CACs), Community Health Workers (CHWs), and navigators to gather in-person to plan ahead for this year’s upcoming open enrollment period from November 1 to December 15*.

Presenter at the Texas open enrollment conference

Image 1: Liz Hagan reviews key points for assisters

The two-day intensive training with Texas assisters covered topics beyond outreach and enrollment that assisters encounter in their health centers and communities. Assisters are trusted messengers and oftentimes the first point of contact for partners and consumers, so the issues they help consumers address each year continues to be expansive and complex.

The conference topics ranged from immigration status and whether or not to enroll in coverage; the lack of Medicaid expansion; how to access preventive services; how to navigate primary vs. emergency care; education about consumer protections; referring to entities assisting with enrollment in other benefit programs (such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)); story collection for outreach and advocacy; work planning; and more! All these topics are further confused this year by media messaging, the upcoming midterm election, news, new threats to immigrant families, and the inclusion of the short-term and association health plans that limit coverage and do not offer the same protections and benefits of Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans. Assisters need more support than ever to carry out their important work and Transform Health is available to support your work.

Transform Health staff were on-hand to address federal policy issues that Texans and other states are facing this year and to train on the importance of planning ahead and encouraging client story collection. In our trainings, we highlighted that their workforce is one that tackles social determinants of health and framing their work that way is important for clients and sustainability and expansion of programs. Because they are often the first point of contact for someone in need of patient navigation, enrollment support, and health literacy, they have a unique opportunity to expand their roles even further.

Heather Bates conducting an icebreaker at open enrollment conference

Image 2: Heather does an icebreaker to relieve stress

Leading into this open enrollment period, it will be critical to continue to share out new resources and utilize existing resources, such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities webinar series Beyond the Basics, Community Catalyst and the National Health Law Program’s (NHeLP) In the Loop, Young Invincibles Get Covered Coalition, and resources from Protecting Immigrant Families related to recent policy proposals for immigrants.

If you would like to work with Transform Health on enrollment navigation policy and strategy, work plan development, or have enrollment policy or programmatic questions, please contact Heather Bates at heather@transformhc.com or Liz Hagan at ehagan@transformhc.com

*Note that state based marketplaces can institute longer open enrollment timeframes, such as Covered California’s  open enrollment period, which runs from October 15 to January 15.