The pro-Affordable Care Act national non-profit group Enroll America is expanding its outreach staff and launching new technology-driven tools in order to reach the still uninsured and enroll them in health insurance during open enrollment, which starts Saturday.

The group, which has an on-the-ground outreach effort in 11 states, aims to reach 1.4 million consumers by Feb. 15, 2015, the end of the enrollment period.

Also see: New Healthcare.gov CEO lays out 2015 enrollment goals

The period is nearly half the length of year one enrollment, and therefore presents some “new and different challenges,” says Enroll America’s President Anne Filipic, previously deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement under President Barack Obama. As a result , groups, including hers, need to work “harder and stronger to reach the uninsured.”

Enroll America is now working with 4,600 partner organizations across the country, of which 1,300 of those groups are assister organizations, a spokeswoman says. “We’re planning to recruit 2,000 individual volunteers to serve as certified application counselors with our partners in our 11 target states by the end of open enrollment,” the spokeswoman says.

Enroll America believes in-person assistance that is the main way to reach the uninsured, Filipic says. During the first open enrollment period, those who interacted with an in-person assister were twice as likely to enroll, especially within hard-to-reach populations such as Latinos and African-Americans, Filipic said Wednesday on a media call.

Also see: Early troubles have brokers predicting another bumpy road for 2015 federal exchange enrollment

The group has also launched an online tool, the Get Covered Connector, that will allow individuals to schedule a meeting with an assister and then receive follow-up text messages as reminders. The service, provided for a nominal fee to enrollment assisters, is currently in use in 14 states, primarily those on the federally-facilitated marketplace, also known as Healthcare.gov.

As part of its outreach, the group plans to work with small businesses that can both provide information to consumers and collect it from them. “The door knocking and phone calls will still happen but without having multiple touch points we can’t reach everybody,” says John Gilbert, Enroll America’s national field director, on the media call.

Separately, Enroll America said it has raised more than $20 million this year to maintain and expand outreach efforts. The funding comes from philanthropies (66%), hospitals (17%), and others in the health care sector and individual donors (17%). The group previously raised $27 million in 2013.

In the end, Filipic says that Enroll America knows it has its work cut out for them. “The remaining uninsured are harder to reach and many are not aware of basic facts,” she says. “We are not expecting this to be a walk in the park but we are confident, we are well positioned to make the most every day and every dollar of the enrollment period. Our staff and partners are trained and ready to go.”

 

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