Report: Health exchange must reach e-generation

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.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • RR, Senile Columnist

    The dudes have smartphones and social-networking apps but are “less likely to use the Internet.” True enough, they are afraid Homeland Security might be spying on them. Here’s an idea: Enroll the teen gangs to spread the word on health insurance; give them a chance to show their humane side.