On Thursday, September 10, the Health Connector Board discussed readiness for Open Enrollment (OE) 2016, including outreach efforts, and to deliver the final award of the 2016 Seal of Approval. Materials from the meeting are posted here.
Chief Operating Officer Vicki Coates provided consumer experience updates. Coates first noted that total Non-Group Medical Enrollment stands at 175,605 members, a 1.2% increase from last month. Non-Group Dental enrollment is 45,240 members, a 0.8% increase from last month. Non-Group Enrollment for ConnectorCare is 129,657 members, an increase of 1.4% from last month. Coates then said that the call center continues to hold the gains made in the last several months, with a lower call abandonment rate and average speed to answer than February and March. Issue resolution has increased by 5% after holding steady for a few months and there are significantly fewer people reporting that they called more than three times without resolution. First contact resolution, Coates reported, has increased 4.1% since May. Overall satisfaction has increased 7% from July to August as lower wait times have resulted in higher satisfaction levels. Coates also re-iterated that staffing is on track to match the anticipated increase in call volume associated with OE and staff are being trained to support customers’ shopping needs.
2016 Open Enrollment Readiness Update
During Open Enrollment, which runs from November 1, 2015-January 31, 2016, individuals in the non-group market can enroll in or switch plans for any reason without needing a qualifying event. Currently, the Connector is in the final stages of determining eligibility and renewals for the upcoming OE. 118,000 households that applied for help paying for coverage and are eligible for a Qualified Health Plan (QHP) received eligibility notices. The notice, it was noted in the meeting, is very “high level” and does not include information on the amount of tax credits an individual is expected to receive. However, consumers will receive notices of their tax credit values before November 1st. Once members receive their eligibility notices, they have 30 days to take action to update and finalize their eligibility if they choose.
2016 Open Enrollment Outreach Update
The Connector performed a comprehensive consumer survey in July, surveying 1,086 residents representing those currently enrolled in subsidized and unsubsidized health plans, dental plans, and a group of former enrollees. The Connector also conducted several focus groups aimed at uninsured, current, and former members. They held sessions in Lawrence, Lynn and Brockton, areas with high uninsurance rates, to learn about barriers to obtaining coverage and whether people felt comfortable using the Health Connector.
The survey found that, overall, the majority of insured respondents are satisfied with their experience as Health Connector members but room for improvement exists. Dental plan enrollees were significantly less satisfied than health plan enrollees. Additionally, satisfaction rates were skewed between lower-income subsidized members and upper income unsubsidized members - with lower income enrollees more likely to be satisfied.
Uninsured respondents perceived that cost was the biggest barrier but insured members of similar income levels find their coverage to be generally affordable. Uninsured individuals are more willing to risk not having coverage and show an inherent distrust in the health care system. Individuals with families, however, were more interested in enrolling in health insurance. Lastly, respondents emphasized that the process is still often confusing and expressed that having help with their application was useful. To illustrate this point, the satisfaction rating of Navigators is relatively high compared to those of the Health Connector website or customer service.
Survey and focus group data on plan selection and enrollment indicate that the top reasons people select the plan they enrolled in are to keep premiums low and have a plan that includes their doctor or provider. More people report not understanding their benefits than understanding them. Respondents noted that the enrollment process could be improved through better website design, better trained Customer Services Representatives (CSRs), simpler web navigation, and the ability for more plan comparisons.
The top customer service issue appears to be linked to phone services, as shown by the number of respondents dissatisfied with long wait times and the fact that some CSRs appear to lack sufficient knowledge. The Connector is addressing these problems by proactively hiring and training staff to add to the number of available CSRs during OE. Fortunately, the Connector is emphasizing in-person assistance throughout the state through Navigators, Certified Application Counselors, Issuer Enrollment Assisters, Broker Enrollment Assisters, and new locations for support with trained CSRs. Springfield, Fall River, Brockton, and Lowell will all be additional in-person centers staffed with trained Health Connector CSRs. The permanent Boston and Worcester Centers will also have extended evening and weekend hours.
Final Award of 2016 Seal of Approval