The case for a mobile health insurance exchange

By Brian Dolan
03:28 am

Brian Dolan, Editor, MobiHealthNewsIt's no secret that a lot of lobbying continues to shape how the details of the healthcare reform laws are executed. A recent column by Sarah Kliff in the Washington Post called my attention to one lobbyist group's suggestions for health insurance exchanges. First, here's the summary background for those out of the loop:

"The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has received thousands of comments on preliminary exchange regulations issued this year, which laid some ground rules for what the new marketplace would look like," Klein writes. "Under the health overhaul, every state will have a new health insurance marketplace called an “exchange,” to launch in 2014. Often described as state-based “Expedias” for health insurance, the exchanges will serve as online hubs for individuals and small businesses to compare and purchase health insurance plans. Low- and middle-income Americans will also be able to use new tax subsidies on the exchange, meant to make health coverage more affordable."

While I'm sure the expected stakeholders are fighting for enough elbow room to put their mark on it, a small lobbyist group called Young Invincibles, which advocates for the interests of young adults, is pushing the Obama Administration to ensure that these online health insurance exchange hubs are easily accessible via mobile devices.

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“Young people are obviously much more uninsured than older people,” Jen Mishory, deputy director for Young Invincibles, told the Post. “They have less access to employer-sponsored insurance. It’s important that the exchanges meet them where they are, and that’s often with a smartphone.”

Young Invincibles lays out the entire case for a mobile-enabled health insurance exchange in a statement they published at the end of last week. Here are some excerpts I found interesting:

"Although the traditional online option will work for many Exchange participants, creative alternatives can help enroll low-income consumers, communities of color, and young people. They include:

• Designing A Smartphone Enrollment Application – States and the federal government should consider developing a smartphone application that allows for easy comparison of and enrollment in health plans sold through the Exchange. Some have suggested that having an application that allows for the full enrollment process is unworkable on a smart phone, but we strongly recommend that Exchanges explore the possibility further.

• Mobile Integration – Even if a smart phone application is not developed, functionality should be created for exchanges to interact with mobile devices through actionable alerts, enrollment status updates, customer support services, and uploading documentation. The UX2014 project has explored some of these ideas and suggests innovative uses.

• Mobile Outreach – Policymakers should integrate mobile devices into their outreach campaigns. For example, bus stop signs asking potential Exchange applicants to send basic contact information over text message. The Exchange could then follow up by phone and email. The text4baby campaign is one possible model that has provided health information to over 175,000 pre-natal moms.

• Social Networking – Young people and people of color are disproportionately active on social networking sites. Although people of color use government websites less frequently than whites, they are much more likely to value government outreach and distribution of information through social media. Sixty percent of blacks and 52 percent of Latinos think this is important compared to only 41 percent of whites. The data suggests that outreach over social media could be a key way to enroll young people of color in the Exchange."

The Young Invincibles' argument for a mobile health insurance exchange could easily be applied to most any health-related service.


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