By Melanie Williams
In Connecticut there are 344,000 uninsured residents. Twenty-five percent of them are Latino. Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange, is actively campaigning to educate and insure the Latino community in hopes of drastically reducing this statistic.
With Oct. 1 approaching, Access Health CT has been aggressively using several outlets to reach out to and educate residents of their insurance options before the open enrollment deadline.
“The fact that this is a complex topic, we understand it can be scary and intimidating for a lot of people who are uninsured and have little experience with dealing with this stuff in the past. So in order to make sure they get answers to the questions that they have we wanted to spend quality time getting in front of people and give them information directly,” said Jason Madrak, chief officer for Access Health CT.
Access Health’s first outdoor outreach campaign event was Latino focused. The campaign was launched at the Puerto Rican Day Parade inHartford. In addition, they participated in the subsequent festival at Bushnell Park. During this outreach, bilingual representatives were present, educational information was distributed, as well as several hats, shirts, and 1400 Access Health branded maracas.
“It’s been fantastic. One of the things we decided to do here in this state was to make sure that the majority of our campaign was grounded in in-person community level outreach,” Madrak said.
In compliance with the Affordable Care Act, residents between the ages of 18 and 65 must be insured by Jan. 1, 2014. Unless they are exempt, residents who are not insured by this deadline will have to pay a penalty.
Access Health CT is the only official marketplace where residents can go to enroll and see if they qualify for tax credits that can lower their monthly premiums or find out if they qualify for Medicaid.
There are a number of tactics in place to specifically target the Latino community, one being Mercado De Salud, an “edutainment” series of shows to engage, educate and entertain. This series is being aired on Univision 18 Hartford and will run through March 2014.
“Mercado De Salud provides the necessary knowledge and tools to engage and empower Latinos for a healthier tomorrow,” Access Health CT CEO, Kevin Counihan said.
The television segments are only one component of a robust statewide marketing and outreach campaign. The outreach campaign includes vehicles such as broadcast, cable, radio and print, plus community outreach via fairs, festivals, neighborhood canvassing, storefront locations and in-person assisters.
Goals for the first enrollment period is to insure between 80,000-100,00 people into private insurance through the exchange, a goal Madrak feels is attainable.
“We are very confident that we will meet that goal, we have confidence in in the plan we have in place and we have some innovative efforts planned that you may not see in other states. We are going to make a pretty big splash and hope to reach that goal,” Madrak said.
Uninsured and underinsured residents are encouraged to view the website as of Oct. 1 to partake in “anonymous shopping,” in which they can review and compare available policies.
Access Health CT was created by the Connecticut Legislature in 2011 and is a quasi-public agency established to satisfy requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act. Its mission is to increase the number of insured residents in Connecticut, promote health, lower costs and eliminate health disparities. Its vision is to provide a simple online shopping and enrollment experience for state residents and small businesses, starting with open enrollment in October 2013.More information is available at www.AccessHealthCT.com