Another open enrollment is winding down, an annual tradition allowing consumers to comparatively shop and enroll in the health plan that’s right for them. According to a recent New York Times article, roughly 20 million more Americans have health insurance now than when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed into law in 2010. Despite these gains, there were still 24 million adults without coverage at the start of this year’s open enrollment period. Three groups in particular stand out as populations that deserve increased attention as brokers work to cover those who are seemingly left behind.
Hispanics are more likely to be uninsured than any other ethnic or racial group, and Hispanic enrollment through health insurance marketplaces remains low. This persistent issue become even more important to address during open enrollment. Yet the solutions transcend ethnicity: neither technological nor language barriers appeared to be a large contributor to the coverage gaps. Instead, lack of understanding and communication about regulations drive the trend, particularly when it comes to both the financial penalty and tax subsidies on the individual market. This bridge in communication is where brokers shine. As the leading enrollment contractors for health insurance, brokers need to be on the front lines communicating to consumers the financial penalties associated with not having health insurance as well as tax subsidy eligibility.
The internet was invented 26 years ago, well before the average millennial was born. The reason why this matters so much in addressing the needs of the remaining uninsured is that the millennial generation makes up the majority of our workforce. This uninsured group has been coined with the name “young invincibles” which hints that they expect something different when it comes to their health and financial well-being. This generation expects convenience, affordability, and the best consumer experience, but they also lack an understanding of their health insurance options and its importance to both their health and finances. In order for brokers to successfully communicate and engage with this uninsured population, they need to meet them where they are: online. An online presence gives millennials the consumer experience they are looking for and can increase the number of communication touch points brokers can provide them.
Workers at small companies
Most workers who don’t have health insurance have jobs at small companies, with fewer than 25 employees. Those companies are exempt from the health law’s requirement that employers offer health insurance to their full-time workers or pay a fine. Yet the problem isn’t that small businesses are disinterested because of this policy; in fact, most small business owners are interested in providing coverage for their employees. The problem originates at its cost.
Small group premiums have long been known for being volatile, and recent research from Urban Institute highlights just how much a group premium will set someone back compared to coverage on the individual market. However, the existence of small business tax credits as well as options on the individual market provide small business with more coverage options than ever before. Brokers are needed more than ever before to help educate small businesses on the nuances of the law that directly affects them in their pursuit of the most affordable health insurance options available. This need for constant communication drives the broker’s value even higher.
As the uninsured get harder and harder to reach, the role of the broker only increases in importance. Those groups identified above that are adversely impacted pose a unique opportunity for enrollment outreach. By identifying their primary concerns, meeting them where they are, and amplifying communication strategies, brokers can effectively increase access to health care for the remaining uninsured.