By Spencer Dixon
On the heels of this Open Enrollment season, one in five young adults lack health insurance; a disproportionate number of whom were young African Americans and young Latinos. Our generation ends up in the emergency room more than any other age group, except the elderly. No one should forgo health insurance.
We sharpened our enrollment strategy this past year to connect with young Latinos and African Americans and we expect to see a great uptick in enrollment soon, largely because of how we’ve begun conversations with our generation: through mobile apps.
Millions of Millennials rely on the Internet to go about their daily life — from using email to communicate, a GPS to get around town, to smartphones to connect to the Internet and 83% of 18-29 year olds have a smartphone today. Many young adults, especially young African Americans and Latinos, primarily access the Internet through a smartphone.
Enter the Cognosante Connector app.
Modeled after Enroll America’s Connector tool, our new mobile app provides in-person assistance for our generation — in English and Spanish — to help our peers navigate low-cost health coverage options available today.
Anyone can enter his or her zip code and language and book free appointments with experts who can help them through the enrollment process. The free app can be downloaded on the Apple App Store, as well as the Google Play store.
Why, in the age of the Internet, do we emphasize in-person assistance? Research shows that those who received in-person assistance are twice as likely to enroll than those who tried to enroll by themselves. While using a website on one’s own to get coverage works for most people, the process can be confusing, especially for young adults who may be signing up for the first time.
The mode of delivery is just as important. Solely relying on an Internet-based system could exacerbate existing health care disparities. Many of the same people who lack Internet access also lack health coverage — Latinos are uninsured more than any other ethnic group in the United States and also have one of the lowest rates of Internet access at home.
Access to Internet through cell phones, however, is a much different story. Eighty-five percent of 18-29 year-olds use their cell phones to go online. Many populations with high rates of uninsurance, such as young adults, people of color and those who are low-income, rely on their phones, not computers, to access the Internet. While filling out a health insurance application and comparing plans on a phone is possible, it can be quite cumbersome. If a person does not have access to a computer, meeting with an in-person assister is that much more important.
Ultimately, the past two Open Enrollment periods have been grand experiments in creating the most accessible and technologically advanced system for health insurance enrollment. The system isn’t perfect yet, but by learning what works, we can use technology to meet the needs of our generation in ways we could have only dreamed of in the past.
And our primarily hope is that — through technology — we’re able to reach a wider net of Millennials who need health insurance to help them enroll.