Open Enrollment Outreach For LEP Communities in 2018 

By United Language Group

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period for 2018 began on Wednesday, Nov. 1. This year, the lead-up to open enrollment was fraught with uncertainty as efforts were made to repeal the law.

Although it was not repealed, the ACA continues to be impacted by reduced marketplace support. This will likely reduce the number of people who buy health insurance through the federal marketplace. Limited English Proficiency (LEP) consumers and communities will be especially hard-hit. Here’s a rundown on why these communities are especially vulnerable and what health plans can do to limit the impact on enrollment.

Open Enrollment Outreach Cut by 90%

The ACA advertising budget has been reduced significantly. This year, funds for ACA enrollment outreach are down by 90%, from $100 million to $10 million. And, while in the past the Spanish-speaking community was specifically included in outreach efforts, these efforts are also on the decline ($12 million was spent on ACA enrollment advertising in Spanish during the first several years after the ACA was implemented, which is more than the entire advertising budget this year).

Outreach in Spanish (and other commonly spoken languages) is important because studies show that people are more likely to buy products when they have access to information in their native language. That’s especially true with something like health insurance, which is expensive and complex even for native English speakers. Bilingual navigators who provide in-person help to LEP populations can help with this, but unfortunately funding for navigators has been significantly reduced as well.

Other Obstacles for LEP Communities

Beyond reductions in advertising and outreach, the enrollment period has also been significantly reduced. Last year, the open enrollment period lasted 3 months. This year, it’s only 6 weeks.

Additionally, this year the Healthcare.gov website will be offline every Sunday except one during the open enrollment period. Last year, outreach groups made a point of helping Latino families sign up on Sundays after church.

Increased concern about deportations is also likely to deter applicants who have undocumented family members.

Why LEP Communities Need the ACA Marketplace, and Why the Marketplace Needs Them

Traditionally underinsured groups like Asians and Hispanics benefited a great deal from the ACA. Between 2013 and 2015, the number of uninsured Hispanic\ Americans dropped by 9% and the number of uninsured Asian Americans dropped by 7%.

But organizations that offer marketplace plans need Latinos and other LEP groups, too.

That’s because, statistically speaking, Latino customers are more likely to be younger and healthier.

Health insurance marketplaces need as many healthy enrollees as possible to function. Like it or not, health insurance is based on the idea of pooling money and sharing costs. Ideally, healthy people contribute while they are healthy so that they have coverage when they need it. If the only people who enroll are people who are already sick, the whole system falls apart.

How Can Health Plans Increase LEP Membership Despite These Obstacles?

Health plans need more healthy sign-ups, not fewer, to make it financially feasible to keep offering plans on the exchanges. And translation is vital to these efforts. For example, did you know that 1 in 4 people who apply for coverage through the marketplace speak a language other than English at home?

But insurance companies are already pressed for time, pressed for money and have other translation requirements they are legally required to meet.

With that in mind, here are our recommendations for how health plans can maximize membership by reaching out to LEP families and communities:

  • Translating your marketing materials has never been more important. Remember, even people who speak English as a second language often prefer to receive information in their native language. For more on how localization can improve your bottom line, check out our infographic.
  • Use translation memories, style guides and glossaries for faster, more consistent translations.
  • Get smarter with your healthcare translation budget. At VIA, our project management expertise combined with our Memory Bank™ system can help you cut costs by up to 30%.
  • Work with community organizations to educate LEP consumers and increase enrollment.
  • Use clear, plain language for customer-facing materials. Now more than ever, you can’t rely on navigators to explain them to your customers.
  • Develop outreach plans to reach new groups of customers, and be sure to take language and culture into account when you do.
  • Make sure your taglines are prominently placed and correctly translated. See 6 Expert Tips for Compliant Healthcare Translations for examples of what can go wrong.
  • Make sure that customers have easy access to translated application documents, both in person and online. Remember, the less help they need from bilingual navigators, the better.
    How VIA Can Help

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VIA combines expertise in marketing, healthcare, and compliance to make it easy for your organization to communicate effectively and persuasively in any of 125 languages. Want to find out more about our healthcare translation services and our award-winning project management process? Contact us here.

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