IT boosts enrollment in public health programs, but human aid still necessary

A majority of participants in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) favored an online enrollment process, but a segment still wants to be able to interact with caseworkers, according to a study from Georgia State University.

The research, published at the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, involved both surveys and focus groups. It found a small yet significant group continues to lack access to a computer and the skills to submit the applications. Submitting supporting documentation, such as birth certificates and pay stubs, posed a problem as well.

It found applicants with more education, who were white and who lived in urban areas were more likely to favor online application, while those with less education and non-whites needed more help. While online application would seem to be more convenient for rural applicants, they were less open to the idea than urban beneficiaries.

The authors urge more consideration of benefits and limitations of processes that involve mobile devices and texting as a way to communicate with applicants.

"IT holds the promise of improving efficiency and reducing barriers for enrollees, but state and federal agencies managing public insurance programs need to ensure access to traditional processes and make caseworkers available to those who require and value such assistance, even after implementing IT-enabled processes," the authors say.

Consumers still struggle to understand insurance industry jargon, such as deductibles, copays and premiums, Kaiser Health News reported recently.

Hispanics and low-income applicants were the most likely to seek help with enrollment in Affordable Care Act health plans, a recent analysis found. It urged future enrollment efforts to include more navigators and sources of information other than websites to assist applicants.

To learn more:
- read the research