Nashville, Tenn.-based Saint Thomas Health’s local and state partnerships help the five-hospital system educate and enroll individuals in health insurance coverage throughout the communities it serves. The larger state-wide coalition, “Get Covered Tennessee,” includes health insurance brokers, officials from state and local health programs, hospital administrators, private sector representatives and non-profits, such as Enroll America. From there, other coalitions have developed, including “Get Covered Nashville.”

Building the “Get Covered Tennessee” coalition was key for Saint Thomas Health, as it provided funding opportunities, unified both its message and community event planning, and resulted in one website: GetCoveredTenn.org.  

“It brought a lot of synergy, a lot of electricity and activity,” says Nancy Anness, St. Thomas Health’s vice president of advocacy, access and community outreach. “We committed to participating in every single coalition meeting, whether in person or by phone.”

Other tactics included training and educating access services staff in the hospitals and community around marketplace enrollment. They also provided application counselors at each hospital and clinic who met weekly to get support and brainstorm ideas.

“We depend on application counselors to communicate, educate, reach out to people anywhere and everywhere,” says Anness. “And then enroll, enroll, enroll!”

Different methods.  Application counselors used different methods to reach the right audiences, through both one-on-one and group education and enrollment. They met with people at community agencies, community events, libraries, schools, churches, health fairs and medical missions. Collectively, the Get Covered Tennessee coalition held more than 700 events, trainings, meetings and other enrollment activities surrounding the first enrollment period.

From October 2013 to March 2014, more than 150,000 Tennesseans enrolled in a marketplace plan. At Saint Thomas Health, their counselors personally enrolled close to 700 individuals in either the marketplace, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Saint Thomas Health has started seeing results from its enrollment efforts. Part of Ascension Health, it has six community clinics located throughout middle Tennessee.  Between January and July 2014, it saw 1,600 new clients in the system and encountered nearly 3,000 patients with marketplace coverage. For the second enrollment period, Anness says it is focusing on three main things.

“Renewal is crucial to keep this going,” she says. “And we need to help people understand what financial assistance is available and work with them in-person to make an informed decision.”

Saint Thomas Health plans more local media engagement. There will be a new 1-800 central call line where people can be connected with an application counselor in their area. It also is putting drop boxes across middle Tennessee where the uninsured can sign commitment cards to get covered and then be contacted by Enroll America and connected to in-person counselors.

As Anness says, “Stay the course, keep calm and enroll on.”

For more information, go to the GetCoveredTenn.org website.