Tap main sources of ACA info to reach consumers

Roughly 80 percent of people who researched Affordable Care Act health plans used websites, finds a new analysis conducted by Urban Institute researchers who used Health Reform Monitoring Survey data from March.

While websites were the most common source of information, insurance and exchange leaders should note that different groups relied on other sources, such as navigators, employers or the media, to obtain information on exchange plans during open enrollment.

Looking at race and ethnicity, the researchers found Hispanics were more likely to use direct assistance (39.8 percent), which included call centers, navigators, application assisters, insurance agents/brokers, than white non-Hispanics (30.9 percent). And nearly 25 percent of Hispanics used indirect or informal assistance, such as family or friends, employers, tax preparers or hospitals, compared to only 11.3 percent of white non-Hispanics and 17.6 percent of nonwhite non-Hispanics.

Of the various sources of information, insurance agents and brokers had the highest rating for helpfulness--80 percent. Meanwhile, nearly 75 percent of adults considered assistance involving a person other than the call centers very or somewhat helpful, while about 60 percent viewed websites as very or somewhat helpful.

The analysis suggests that as states and insurers prepare for the next open enrollment period, they should include sources of information other than websites to maximize enrollment, especially among Hispanic and low-income adults.

Furthermore, future enrollment efforts should take into account that Latinos appreciate face-to-face time to help them with the enrollment process and respond well to "trusted resources" when hoping to gain knowledge about healthcare.

Since 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, the Obama administration also needs to enhance its customer service efforts to reach potential customers for 2015. That could involve training customer-service representatives at call centers to better respond to off-script questions, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

 For more:
- read the analysis