With the deadline to enroll in federal and state marketplaces (for coverage beginning January 1, 2014) approaching on December 23rd, we know that our partners are working tirelessly to reach out to and enroll consumers in health coverage.  In recognition of this important and historical moment, this blog is part of a series to bring attention to innovative outreach and enrollment strategies around the country. We hope that Outreach Lessons from the States, which will share a new strategy every day this week, will energize our partners and inspire creative outreach practices for reaching consumers as ACA enrollment continues

Two state consumer health advocacy groups are using new technology to get outreach and enrollment messages to their audiences. With mobile and online technology so prevalent and integrated into modern life, using these mediums to spread health care messages can be efficient and affordable.

First, Michigan Primary Care Association (MPCA) developed a mobile messaging system to support consumers in enrolling in health coverage. Using the “Mobile Commons” platform, they send targeted text messages about enrollment to consumers – helping connect them to Navigators, certified application counselors and other enrollment resources in their area.

Consumers get enrolled in the system by sending a text message from their cellular phones to a certain number. Since many people pay per text received, MPCA decided to limit their messages to only one or two brief texts per month. The technology also has functionality for automatic communication, for example when consumers respond to texts with their zip code, they are directed to an enrollment specialist in their area.

Several hundred people have enrolled in the texting program, and MPCA is getting word out through libraries, Navigators, and signs posted in frequented public locations. According to Emily Carr of MPCA, “Our texting system is an efficient and very user-friendly program.” 

In Michigan, Medicaid enrollment won’t start until April 1 so texting has become one strategy to stay connected to Medicaid-eligible consumers. The texting program can be an asset in staying connected and reminding them when they can enroll.

Second, The Blue Guide is an online mapping tool designed by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative (CCHI) to guide Coloradans to health care resources for the uninsured. The tool uses a robust database to provide detailed information on where to find health services by category, including General Health, Mental/Behavioral, and Oral/Dental Health services.

Perhaps most importantly during this open enrollment period, the tool can help consumers find Navigators, certified application counselors and other enrollment assistance for both the state Marketplace, Connect for Health Colorado and Colorado’s Medicaid program. The website is mobile friendly, and CCHI created iOS and Android mobile apps to make the tool even more accessible to uninsured populations and organizations working directly with those populations. 

CCHI has made all of the code for the Blue Guide website and mobile applications open source, ensuring that peers in other states are able to create their own version at a low cost and without “recreating the wheel.” You can load as few or as many data points as you feel is useful and have capacity for  CCHI is available on a limited basis to provide support if states want to use the template/code. For more information contact Adam Fox, Director of Strategic Engagement at the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative at afox@cohealthinitiative.org.