This policy brief from the Greenlining Institute highlights the importance of ensuring that the state-based health insurance exchange being established by California through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) effectively reaches all the diverse Californians that it is intended to serve. The policy brief makes the following recommendations:
• The Exchange board should conduct a regional needs assessment to better determine the specific needs of low-income and diverse communities, and use this assessment to create an effective outreach campaign.
• The board should make sure that the outreach campaign, which should describe not only the ACA itself but also methods for enrollment, is tailored to communities that face more barriers to enrolling.
• Federal law requires that a program of navigators – community organizations, professional associations, non-profit groups, etc. – be developed to help people obtain information about the ACA and enrollment, and also assist with the actual process of enrolling. This provides an incredible opportunity to bring together organizations from communities of color to help specifically target outreach efforts.
• 71% of people ages 18-34 use social networking sites. These sites should be utilized to promote information about the ACA and enrollment.
• The board should emulate the model developed in Merced County, where kiosks have been placed in various public areas (libraries, pharmacies, etc.) which allow people to sign up for welfare and Medi-Cal. Kiosks in public locations will make it easier to enroll in the Exchange and will help circumvent unequal Internet access in low-income and diverse communities.
• Because smartphones are the primary means of Internet access for many, the Exchange should consider creating an application for smartphones that would allow people to compare and apply for coverage through their phones.
• The Exchange should also use cell phones to send out informative text messages with information about the Exchange and enrollment, or with reminders about renewing coverage.
• It is key that all materials or resources be available in multiple languages, for fair access for the millions of Californians whose primary language is not English.