Recent healthcare reforms could leave millions of Californians behind unless the state’s new Health Benefit Exchange board moves aggressively to reach them, according to a new report from a Berekely-based advocacy group.
The Greenlining Institute, which advocates for communities of color and other disadvantaged groups, will present its report to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ fall meeting on Friday in National Harbor, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C.
“The Health Benefit Exchange simply can’t operate on the principle of, ‘If you build it, they will come,’” said report co-author Carla Saporta, Greenlining’s health policy director. “If the populations most in need don’t know about it, they won’t come. Putting up a website where people can enroll is a good start, but the Exchange must reach people where they are – whether that’s in community centers or on their smartphones.”
Among the report’s key findings are that most of the 4.7 million Californians newly eligible for health insurance will be from communities of color, and many live in households where English is not the primary language. People of color and low-income communities are less likely to have Internet access, less likely to use the Internet to connect to government services, and more likely to use smartphones rather than computers as their primary online access.
The report says smartphone and social networking site usage is particularly prevalent among adults aged 18-29, which is exactly the young and healthy population whose enrollment is critical to successful implementation of the exchange. So, the Exchange must use a variety of strategies to reach these populations, including smartphone apps, kiosks in key public sites, and telephone and in-person assistance in a variety of languages, the report says.