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Here’s How Communities Used Innovative Ideas to Get Covered This Open Enrollment Period

At the end of the most recent Affordable Care Act open enrollment period, the White House has announced the winner of its Healthy Communities Challenge.

A few months ago, my office began our usual calls to local leaders to see how we could support them in the third open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act. With more information on enrollment, our team knew that leaders would need to get creative to reach those who still were uninsured and inform them that quality, affordable healthcare was available on the Marketplace.

That’s why the White House decided to challenge 20 communities from across the country, large and small, to enroll the most new consumers as possible. The White House Healthy Communities Challenge engaged key communities with large numbers or high percentages of uninsured in states across the country where strong federal, state and community collaboration could (and did) have a meaningful impact on reaching the uninsured.

Today, the White House is announcing that the winner of the White House “Healthy Communities Challenge” is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Under the leadership of Mayor Tom Barrett and County Executive Chris Abele, over 38,000 people in the Milwaukee area newly selected a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace during this open enrollment period. Together with returning Marketplace consumers, over 89,000 people in the Milwaukee area selected a 2016 Marketplace plan. To increase enrollment, Mayor Tom Barrett opened libraries for enrollment events, delivered thousands of flyers to promote enrollment events, and participated in robocalls and phone banking. County Executive Chris Abele ran digital signage on County buses, directing people to and additional services available through 211 to help individuals with the application process.

Congratulations to Milwaukee, winner of the Healthy Communities Challenge.

As the victorious community, Milwaukee receives bragging rights, a healthier community, and a visit from President Obama to celebrate their success in helping ensure Americans have health coverage. President Obama will visit Milwaukee in the coming weeks.

Chicago, Ill.; Atlanta, Ga.; Detroit, Mich. and Oakland, Calif. rounded out the top five for the Challenge. Altogether, participating communities saw over 1.6 million new enrollees, representing people who were uninsured for years as well as Americans finding coverage as they go through changes in life, such as being between jobs, striking out as entrepreneurs, or aging off their parents' plans. Many more renewed their previous Marketplace coverage.

Mayor Barrett and Executive Abele are only two of the many state and local elected officials who made tremendous efforts to reach out to their constituents ahead of the January 31st deadline for this third open enrollment period. Below are some of the best practices these leaders found in ensuring that their communities would have peace of mind:

  • Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins worked with the Dallas County Community College District to remind students to enroll on campus during National Youth Enrollment Day.
  • In Philadelphia, Mayor Jim Kenney participated in a telethon for Latino radio stations and sent an email to the public school system’s parent portal about enrollment.
  • Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s team distributed tens of thousands of fans throughout community centers, churches and libraries. The fans listed enrollment sites and provided Covering Tampa Bay’s 1-800-number to set up appointments to enroll.
  • Mayor Kasim Reed in Atlanta attended open enrollment events to remind people of enrollment locations and to share information on benefits of the Affordable Care Act. 
  • In Seattle and King County, “Health-Care Happy Hours” were held at social events that focused on small businesses and arts/culture.
  • Mayor Sly James in Kansas City created Public Service Announcements that were aired over 330 times on radio stations.
  • In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel directed the City’s 311 non-emergency services line to inform all callers of their insurance options under the Affordable Care Act and provided guidance to operators to connect callers to enrollment opportunities.
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf set up a storefront for enrollment at City Hall for consumers to find information and enrollment assistance.
  • Mayor Ben McAdams in Salt Lake County focused on connecting navigators with a population of formerly incarcerated individuals and also with members of the refugee community.
  • Nashville Mayor Megan Barry released information about open enrollment during key festivities such as the Music City Bowl and the New Years’ Eve festival, where about 250,000 people were in attendance.
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans created a challenge with barbershops and beauty salons to spread the word about open enrollment.
  • In California, Mayor Robert Garcia of Long Beach recruited community organizations to undertake large canvassing efforts in areas with high-uninsured, subsidy-eligible populations. 

As we approach the sixth anniversary of the law’s enactment, nearly 18 million Americans have gained health care coverage and our nation's uninsured rate has fallen below 10 percent for the first time ever. This figure reflects, in large part, the hard work and leadership on the part of state and local elected officials across the country in getting their communities informed and enrolled. The lessons learned from every participating community will be invaluable in guiding enrollment efforts nationwide for years to come. These great American communities participating in the Healthy Communities Challenge utilized effective practices to increase enrollment and ensure that their friends and neighbors receive the healthcare and peace of mind that they, and their community overall, deserve.

 The rankings for the White House Healthy Communities Challenge.