Presented by BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois

Head of Get Covered Illinois explains Obamacare deadline prep

As we enter the final month to buy an insurance plan this year through the Affordable Care Act, I asked Jennifer Koehler, the executive director for Get Covered Illinois, a few questions about what its plans and challenges are leading up to the deadline of March 31.

Starting tomorrow, Get Covered Illinois, which is run by the state, will have a “Road 2 Coverage” recreational vehicle that will visit parts of Chicago, Marion, East St. Louis and other locations that are known to have high numbers of uninsured residents and hand out information about enrollment.  Other things Get Covered Illinois has planned also include BuzzFeed, a social news and entertainment website, featuring five sponsored articles that would extend through March 7.  The BuzzFeed partnership joins GCI’s recently announced partnership with The Onion to create content designed to reach young uninsured residents.

Here’s the transcribe of my interview with Koehler :



What do you have planned in this last month?

We are kicking off our mobile tour tomorrow at Juarez Community Academy, and the mobile tour will be traveling across the state.  And just reminding people that as of tomorrow, they’re only 31 days left of open enrollment on the marketplace.  So now is the time.  People shouldn’t wait any longer.

What do you see as the challenges in getting people enrolled?

Creating that sense of urgency. Thirty-one days may seem like a lot of time.  But we really want to encourage people to start thinking about enrolling right now.  A lot of people are taking their time to consult with their families, and look at their budget and look at all the plans that are available to them.  So we want people to know that it might take more than one sitting to enroll.  So they shouldn’t wait until that last week.  They should really start thinking about it and getting on the marketplace with the help of a free navigator as soon as possible.

Do you see low insurance literacy for people who have never had insurance before being a challenge as well?

Well, our navigators are very well trained in Illinois.  Not only have they been through the two days of online federal training, but they’ve also been through more than two days of state-based training and our training in state is in person.  So our navigators have had very lengthy and thorough training process, during which time they’ve had an opportunity to actively engage with the material and also ask questions of a live instructor.  Health literacy is certainly one aspect of the training that all of our navigators have gone through.  And so we really want to communicate to all Illinois consumers that they should avail themselves of the free help available in their neighborhood — our navigators. It’s free help.  There’s no need for them to go on the marketplace and pick a plan by themselves.  If they have questions, if they want to understand the marketplace better, want to understand the plans, we have very well-trained people available in every corner of the state.

Obviously, you would want anyone to get enrolled.  But are there specific groups you’re targeting?

We have a sense that some of our – what we called “young invincibles,” the uninsured in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic – are probably going to be some of our toughest holdouts.  Probably going to be some of the folks that wait the longest to sign up.  So we’re really redoubling our efforts to reach that 18 to 34 demographic.

Anything else I haven’t asked you that you want to get out?

We would just really like to emphasize that there are a whole host of plans on the marketplace and there’s something affordable on the Illinois marketplace for everyone to create a culture of coverage across Illinois, and that’s part of the point of our mobile tour kicking off tomorrow.

To find a navigator who can walk you through the options,

  • Visit our website at GetCoveredIllinois.gov (which includes a Spanish-language version).
  • Call the Get Covered Illinois Help Desk at 866-311-1119. Operators are available each day from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

I also talked to various hospitals, insurers, volunteers and some of the people who are paid by the state or the federal government to help people sign up to find out what they were up to.  Here’s what some of them said:

  • Sinai Health System, Access Community Health Network and other organizations will be stationed at Black Women’s Expo at McCormick Place from March 28 to 30 to enroll people.  Access is also partnering with ClearChannel to do enrollment onsite at Vida Mujer Expo, which is this Saturday from 12-5 pm at UIC Forum.
  • Enroll America, which has volunteers around the country, is going back to neighborhoods it had first visited in September – like Englewood, Evanston and Humboldt Park – to follow up with residents who may not have enrolled yet, said David Elin, Illinois state director for Enroll America.
  • Some insurers such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and Humana will also expand on digital, radio and TV advertisements and host their own enrollment events, especially to young people, they said.
  • During the month of March, Erie Family Health Center will increase the number of our enrollment fairs from four a month to 10.  To make enrollment more convenient for the public, we’ve extended the hours of the fairs and are including Sunday dates.  In addition, to reach Latinos – which has the highest rate of uninsured by race – Erie will also be enrolling at the Mexican Consulate.
  •  VNA Health Care, which has eight locations in suburban areas, has distributed more than 50,000 door-hangers to residents in Aurora and Elgin, redeployed their 40 navigators to different communities to conduct information blitzes and has doubled the number of enrollment events.

Swedish Covenant Hospital and Get Covered America are partnering to host the Race 2 the Finish Indoor Block Party on March 15, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. In addition to offering one of the last big opportunities for the uninsured to get coverage, Swedish is also enabling people to activate their care on the spot by choosing a primary care physician and booking their first appointment.