Senior centers, community centers and health fairs.
If you live in the Dallas area, you may have met Karen Travit at one of these places. No matter the venue, Travit, a senior field advocate for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, would go almost anywhere to help uninsured Texans understand how insurance works and find affordable plans that meet their needs.
But threat of infection from the novel coronavirus stopped her and her team in their tracks. It forced them to find alternative methods to connect with people in need of 2021 health insurance coverage.
Open enrollment to purchase marketplace coverage for individuals and their families began Nov. 1 and lasts through Dec. 15. Many may qualify for financial assistance under the Affordable Care Act.
People who are eligible for Medicare may select a Medicare Advantage plan or prescription drug plan until Dec. 7.
“We are like geckos. You adapt to the environment.”
Building trust and connection always has been key to BCBSTX’s enrollment efforts. Travit and her team, known as the Think Blue team, took on their new challenge by embracing technology. They hold educational webinars, schedule virtual one-on-one appointments, broadcast short talk shows with expert guests and host online bingo games to engage with current members and establish rapport with new people.
Besides its online efforts, Travit’s team also reaches out to those who want to communicate by phone or mail, too.
“The pandemic is not going to be a problem for us,” Travit says. “We are like geckos. You adapt to the environment.”
Moving forward despite a pandemic
Before the pandemic, Texas already had the highest rate of uninsured residents nationwide, according the U.S. Census Bureau.
An estimated 5.5 million residents — about 18.4% of the state’s total population — lack health insurance. Texas’ uninsured rate is twice the national rate.
Meantime, as many as 27 million people across the country are at risk of losing their employer-sponsored health coverage as the outbreak continues to disrupt to economy and leads to job losses, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports.
Get information about plan options
Visit Thinkbluetx.com to find a virtual open enrollment seminar near you or sign up for a virtual enrollment appointment.
Those losing job-based coverage are eligible to enroll in coverage outside the annual open enrollment period.
Travit says health risks associated with COVID-19 are prompting people to reach out and explore their insurance options. People who lost jobs — and their health insurance — may need help selecting plans. Others who have gone without coverage are searching for plans in case they get sick.
“We have to find new ways to communicate with them,” Travit says. “We are talking to people who are anxious about becoming infected and looking for help online. You can’t let the situation keep you from moving forward. When you touch people’s lives, you have a responsibility to help them.”
Finding someone who understands
As reported COVID-19 cases began rising, Travit’s team became early adopters of online engagement efforts.
She and her team quickly became accustomed to looking at cameras while speaking, rather than people’s faces. And they developed unique messaging techniques, using their talk shows and bingo games, to increase interest and spread awareness.
“You only have a few minutes, so you want to be engaging,” Travit says. “They will shut you off.”
But for many people technology isn’t an adequate replacement for the personal connection they crave. They want to hear a reassuring voice, says Travit, who recently received a call from a member.
“The relief in her voice was amazing,” Travit says. “That kind of connection is tremendous for people who are going through what we’re going through right now.”