ACA outreach and enrollment: Don’t be a grasshopper!


An Aesop’s fable features a carefree grasshopper who was too busy dancing during the summer to collect food for the cold winter and a more serious ant who worked through the summer to store food for the winter. The grasshopper teased the ant for not reveling during the summer with him, but when cold winter came and the grasshopper had no food, he went begging to the ant asking for handouts. Now, in the fable the ant didn’t give the grasshopper any food, which I think is pretty cruel, but the point of the story is that it is wise to plan for tomorrow, TODAY.

This lesson comes to mind as I think about outreach and enrollment efforts for health insurance.

Although the annual open enrollment through the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ended on March 31, 2014, there is no reason agencies should halt all efforts when it comes to outreach and enrollment.

I’m working on a project that supports Title X-funded family planning agencies as they respond to the changing health care landscape, while maintaining access to the delivery of high-quality family planning services. Our project team, JSI’s family planning national training center (FPNTC), views outreach and enrollment as an important training topic that deserves year-round attention.  Over the past year, our FPNTC team has worked closely with the Office of Population Affairs to develop print-ready flyers, webinars, podcasts, case examples, job aids for front desk staff, and top five lists to strengthen family planning providers’ ability to conduct outreach and enrollment.  These efforts are ultimately important because they help the uninsured gain access to health services, they help publically-funded providers free up funds to pay for other needed services and programs, and they help improve clients’ health outcomes.

Families eligible for Medicaid don’t have to wait until the next open enrollment period [November 15, 2014–February 15, 2015] to apply, they can do so at any time. There are also qualifying life events, such as having or adopting a child,  getting married, moving outside an insurer’s coverage area, gaining citizenship, leaving incarceration, gaining status as a member of an Indian tribe, or involuntarily losing coverage – that allow for special enrollment.

Some things that health care providers can do for outreach and enrollment during the summer include:

  • Continue to conduct outreach to uninsured individuals and connect them with enrollment resources if not offered onsite.
  • Assist newly insured clients to better understand and use their insurance.
  • Build and maintain partnerships for outreach and enrollment efforts.
  • Seek out lessons learned from others who conducted outreach and enrollment.
  • Provide training for staff working on outreach and enrollment. Many free training resources are available regarding outreach and enrollment, including:

It’s not very grasshopper-like for me to talk about planning for tomorrow, but when it comes to outreach and enrollment, I think it’s wise to be more like the ant.

Health care providers should keep outreach and enrollment at the forefront of the conversation this summer!


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