What Worked and What's Next? Strategies in Four States Leading ACA Enrollment Efforts

Introduction & Background

As of summer 2014, states are reflecting on their experiences during the first open enrollment period for the new Health Insurance Marketplaces established by the ACA and looking forward to the next open enrollment period, which begins on November 15, 2014. States faced many challenges over the past year as they planned for and implemented the ACA coverage expansions. All State-based Marketplace (SBM) websites, as well as the Federally-facilitated Marketplace (FFM) website, HealthCare.gov, faced technological glitches and limitations during initial implementation, although the extent of these problems varied widely across states. States also faced the task of implementing major changes in policies and programs within a limited timeframe and coordinating and collaborating across programs, agencies, and stakeholders. Despite these challenges, as of April 2014, over 8 million Americans were enrolled in new Marketplace coverage and total Medicaid enrollment had grown by an estimated 6 million individuals since just before the start of open enrollment.1, 2States have taken different approaches to implementing the ACA and have had varied enrollment experiences to date. This brief highlights the experiences of four states—Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, and Washington—that each established their own SBM, implemented the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, and achieved success enrolling eligible individuals into coverage. It identifies key strategies that contributed to their success during open enrollment and highlights their current and future priorities. It is based on in-person interviews conducted during May 2014 with a range of stakeholders in each state, including Medicaid and Marketplace officials, advocates, enrollment assisters, and providers.


The two primary ways the ACA increases coverage are through the creation of new Health Insurance Marketplaces that offer health insurance plans and advanced premium tax credits to help offset the cost of coverage for moderate-income individuals and the expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults. States have options with regard to how they implement these expansions. They can establish their own SBM, default to the FFM, or build a Marketplace in partnership with the federal government. As enacted, the ACA also required all states to expand Medicaid to nearly all adults with incomes at or below 138% FPL ($27,310 for a family of three in 2014) beginning January 2014, but the June 2012 Supreme Court ruling on the ACA effectively made this expansion a state option. As of July 2014, 27 states including the District of Columbia are implementing the Medicaid expansion in 2014.3

Regardless of their implementation choices for the ACA coverage expansions, all states must also implement streamlined Medicaid enrollment processes that offer individuals multiple options to apply (including online, by phone, in person, and by mail), rely on electronic data to verify information, and seek to provide real-time eligibility determinations. These processes are designed to be coordinated across Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Marketplace coverage to create a “no wrong door” enrollment system. Whether an individual applies directly to Medicaid or through a Marketplace, he or she is to be enrolled in the program for which he or she is eligible. To implement these new processes, many states have needed to make significant upgrades to antiquated Medicaid enrollment systems or build new systems.

The four study states—Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky, and Washington—vary geographically and demographically (See Appendix Table 1). However, all four states elected to build their own SBM4 and implemented the full Medicaid expansion as of January 2014, with three of the four states (Colorado, Connecticut, and Washington) using available options to get an early start on extending Medicaid to adults. Moreover, all four states achieved significant enrollment in both their Marketplace and Medicaid programs over the course of the 2014 open enrollment period. Medicaid gains, in particular, were very strong, far exceeding the national average and outpacing some of the states’ growth estimates. As discussed below, stakeholders credit this enrollment success to a range of strategies employed for their marketing and branding campaigns; outreach and enrollment initiatives; consumer assistance networks; and overall systems, operations, and leadership. Looking ahead, the study states are focused on an array of future priorities and continued improvements to further build upon their successes to date.


Executive Summary Lessons Learned

KFF Headquarters: 185 Berry St., Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94107 | Phone 650-854-9400
Washington Offices and Barbara Jordan Conference Center: 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, DC 20005 | Phone 202-347-5270

www.kff.org | Email Alerts: kff.org/email | facebook.com/KFF | twitter.com/kff

The independent source for health policy research, polling, and news, KFF is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.