Health Equity in Focus: Overcoming Enrollment Challenges: Tips for Connecting with Communities of Color
Last year we brought you the Ten Tips for Engaging Communities of Color in Policy Change after meeting with advocates. This year advocates from around the country shared their successes and challenges as they moved through the enrollment period. As we head into the last month of marketplace enrollment, we thought it would be a good time to share additional strategies you can pursue for this enrollment period and the next one.
Making the most of outreach and education during open enrollment
Advocates noted that they have used much of open enrollment to educate consumers about the benefits of the ACA, detracting from some of their enrollment efforts. Many voiced their concerns that this was especially challenging when working with communities of color.
Suggested solution: Use this time to build trust in communities of color. Building relationships based on trust takes time, and will make the next open enrollment period run more smoothly.
Setting the record straight on the ACA
Misinformation about the ACA has been a consistent issue advocates have been working to combat. This has been compounded by limited health literacy, or how well consumers understand their insurance, among uninsured people in the communities advocates have been reaching.
Suggested solution: Advocates shared that they used this first enrollment period as a time to discuss the importance of health literacy and where the community can access health services while assisting them with the enrollment process.
Accessing linguistically and culturally appropriate materials
Access to culturally competent, translated materials has not been as widely available as advocates had hoped, which has made working in some communities difficult.
Suggested solution: Building relationships now will make it easier to approach the community during the next open enrollment period. Equally as important is providing linguistically and culturally appropriate materials regarding the ACA. Many advocates relied on community-trusted interpreters to translate materials to build up education around enrollment. Building relationships with ethnic media to also helps break down those barriers and keeps communities of color informed.
Funding and manpower
Finding funding and ensuring there are enough “boots on the ground” is always a concern and consideration for advocacy work. During open enrollment, groups have also found it difficult to recruit enough manpower to do outreach in communities of color.
Suggested solution: Building robust coalitions helps make your work a reality. Create one statewide coalition to funnel federal and state funding to the appropriate community organizations doing the on the ground work. AmeriCorps and other volunteer service organizations can be a good source for finding the manpower for outreach and education efforts. An advocate also suggested the AmeriCorps partnership as a way to build the capacity for health literality in communities of color.
Having health insurance does not guarantee that you will have access to health care. Many newly insured people are beginning to learn the challenges of navigating the health care system. Our work has only begun, now we need to ensure that everyone stays covered and has access to quality health care.
Whether you are just starting out, or you have been actively engaging diverse coalitions, we encourage you to continue this important work. For more information and resources on health equity, visit our Health Equity issue page.