Nov. 8—In a state extolled as an enrollment leader, one hospital is using a custom approach to drive patient insurance sign ups.

Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Ky., is undertaking its own enrollment strategy to sign area residents up for coverage under either private insurance coverage offered through the state-run health insurance marketplace, called Kynect, or through Kentucky’s Medicaid program.

The enrollment efforts of the five-hospital, not-for-profit health system are separate and apart from the state’s enrollment push. But the combination of state-led and private enrollment efforts have produced one of the largest sign-up rates in the nation and garnered an endorsement from President Barack Obama as an example for the rest of the nation. More than 40,000 Kentucky residents have enrolled for coverage since Oct. 1.

While Norton officials believe they have assisted in that enrollment effort, the health system  has not taken part in enrollment initiatives backed by the federal government, such as the navigator or certified application counselor programs, through which staff are trained to help people sign up for coverage using the state’s website. The health system does plan to use state-provided enrollment kiosks, but those have not yet arrived.

Primarily, the health system has relied on Shelley Gast, system director, managed care for Norton, and an assistant to help people understand their coverage options. In mid-September, Norton launched a publicity campaign for the coverage expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that included radio, bus stop, and postcard advertisements with the state marketplace’s website and phone number. Those ads also included Gast’s phone number, an approach that has generated about 30 calls each day. “Adding my phone number to the ads was important so that people in the community could call me and I could help walk them through what the site looked like and ask me if they had any questions specifically about Norton,” Gast said in an interview with HFMA. 

The assistance Gast has provided includes helping callers identify the providers in various health plans offered through the site. Although Gast’s callers reported that the state website worked well for all but the first few days of enrollment, it has been a challenge for some to determine whether plans cover care from particular providers.

Questions surrounding the size and scope of plan’s provider network have been the focus of many callers, Gast said, because preferred provider organizations were the dominant insurance arrangement in Kentucky before the public marketplace, which includes many narrow network plans.

Norton is included in some narrow network plans and will promote them as part of public seminars it will cosponsor with Humana, which is offering some of those plans. The four seminars—the first of which was Thursday evening—outlined the various benefits available through the ACA were intended primarily for previous self-pay patients at Norton but are open to the general public, as well.

The public seminars were a recent addition to the health system’s ACA outreach campaign after similar sessions proved popular with Norton’s staff.

“A lot of these folks truly have to talk to somebody,” Gast said. “You can’t really educate someone on the exchanges via a billboard because there is so much to the exchanges.”

The outreach efforts could change in the next open enrollment season. Norton plans to re-evaluate its outreach plans after the final coverage sign-up numbers are known following the March 31 end of open enrollment, she said.

Publication Date: Friday, November 08, 2013