Exchange enrollment won't get easier

The recent insurance exchange enrollment surge doesn't guarantee millions of sign-ups for year two, Bloomberg reported. Federal health officials still have several improvements to make.

"Adding new people--the marginal enrollment--only gets harder and harder," George Brandes, director of healthcare programs at tax preparer Jackson Hewitt, told Bloomberg. "For whatever reason these people sat on the fence. This is no longer the low-hanging fruit."

Exchange enrollment could be more difficult in year two because the federal government will have less time and potentially less money to spend on advertising or consumer assistance groups. Next year's open enrollment period, beginning Nov. 15, will last only three months, half as long as this year's open enrollment. And the federal government still doesn't know which outreach and enrollment methods worked best, according to Bloomberg.

To capture coveted Latino sign-ups next year, the federal government must update Spanish-language enrollment websites to make all information in English also available in Spanish. Critics of have complained that translations were full of grammar errors and users who accessed a web page with Spanish instructions were linked to an English form.

Moreover, the English still is missing many critical parts required for the site to run efficiently. One absent function is the piece that accurately pays insurers, which could lead to larger accounting problems.

The Obama administration also needs to enhance its customer service efforts in order to reach potential customers for 2015, Bloomberg noted. Exchange leaders from Kentucky, Rhode Island, California and Washington, D.C., cited better customer service as a secret to their exchange enrollment success. For Covered California, customer service improvements involved adding self-service tools for consumers, conducting email tests and following up with consumers who have started the enrollment process, according to Executive Director Peter Lee.

Tricia Brooks, a researcher at the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, recommended training customer-service representatives at call centers to better respond to off-script questions, Bloomberg also noted.

For more:
- read the Bloomberg article