Two University of New Mexico-trained physicians and a business school professor launched an app, Get Covered New Mexico, to spread information to New Mexico residents about getting covered through the Affordable Care Act.
Professor at the University of New Mexico Nick Flor, Dr. Erin Corriveau and Dr. Kate McCalmont decided to develop the app after Corriveau attended a community meeting in a poorer region of Albuquerque on how to get the word out about the Affordable Care Act. While the group initially was talking about distributing paper fliers, they soon realized that they could not get all the information they needed on a flier and decided to consider apps.
"All of us recognize the huge issue of uninsured and underinsurance here so as we saw the ACA rolling out and as we saw New Mexico accepted the Medicaid extension we realized what a huge benefit that could provide to this state and so many of our patients here," McCalmont said. "So I think we got really excited about the potential for this but also recognized our patients have extremely low health literacy and that the way this is being rolled out, the information may not be available to them and they may not be aware of what they're even eligible for."
The app, available on iOS and Android, offers users a guide that explains how to sign up for the exchange. It has information about signing up, such as which records and documents to have handy and what that means for someone who already has a specific kind of insurance. The app also offers a calculator to help users see what insurance they are qualified for based on age, household income, any disabilities they or their family members might have, and whether they are citizens.
So far, the group has received no funding for their project, which they work on in their spare time and Flor has done all of the app development. One of their next steps is to start working on grant applications to raise funds to that the group can sustain the work that has already been done on the app and advertise the service to more New Mexico residents. The group also plans to finish development of a Spanish version of the app, which will be the next app they launch.
Currently it's not possible to sign up for the exchange directly through the app although the app does have a link, which directs them to the page where users can apply. McCalmont said applying directly from the app is the ideal and that her team has been in touch with the state of New Mexico about integrating the sign up directly into the app. She's hopeful future iterations of the app will have this feature.
"Right now to integrate with Healthcare.gov would be really challenging," McCalmont said. "New Mexco is using the federal insurance exchange. In 2015, New Mexico will be moving towards a state insurance exchange so it'll be a bit more local control -- we'll be able to have more access to integrating with a state health insurance exchange."
Another group that also aims to get Americans covered by the exchange, the Young Invincibles has met with McCalmont and her team. This group also developed an app, which has a function to find doctors in the area and some links and phone numbers of Americans to call if they're interested in signing up for the exchange. Unlike Get Covered New Mexico, the Young Invincible's app aims to reach the whole country.
As of today, the app has 306 total downloads on Android and iOS.