As a Health and Benefits Advocate at the Family Practice and Counseling Network’s Health Annex, my primary role is to help patients enroll in health insurance coverage. I see patients right after their primary care appointment, assess them for health insurance eligibility, and help them enroll in the best plan that suits their needs. Many of our patients are surprised we offer this service.
One of the ways we let our patients know we can help them with their health insurance is through community outreach events. We book our community room for half a day, provide food, and schedule individual follow-up appointments. About half-way through my service, and two events in, this is my informal guide to holding a successful event. The basic idea is to go light on the terminology like deductibles, coverage areas, and out-of-pocket maximums, and go all in on the fun.
STEP 1: Advertise!
Our most effective advertising technique has been the robo-call. We take a large subset of patients and families who had a recent appointment at the clinic and call them with an automated voice message inviting them to our event. The robo-calls have helped me develop a new skill: voice acting. I’ve been the one whose voice has graced the voice mails of over a thousand people in Southwest Philadelphia. When combined with passing out flyers at local businesses that stress the Affordable Care Act deadlines, we usually get a great turnout.
STEP 2: Food & fun
We understand that learning about health insurance is not that fun so we lighten up the day with sandwiches, drinks, raffles, and fun activities. During our Halloween event, we had a pumpkin painting station and a Halloween costume giveaway. For our winter Holiday event, we raffled off frozen turkeys and dinner baskets and painted plastic ornaments. Many of our patients stay for the whole afternoon to take part in these activities. Having our events be fun and relaxed not only makes our patients more likely to learn about health insurance, but also makes our clinic a more welcoming place. If patients feel welcome, they are more likely to seek out care!
STEP 3: Educate
To start our outreach events, we have a short presentation on basic concepts like the difference between Medicaid, Medicare, and the ACA. Then we pass out pamphlets with information on who is eligible for different types of insurance. We also have side rooms where we can discuss specific enrollment topics with patients privately. This setup helps keep the educational side of the day light and lets us address each patient’s specific needs.
Following this blueprint, our insurance events have been really successful. Recently I have been seeing quite a few patients who walk into our clinic for insurance help. When I ask them how they were referred to the Health Annex they often say: “Well I heard about you from this friend who said you guys were painting and raffling away food. They told me to come in and see you for insurance help!” Having outreach events is a great way to help people get the health insurance coverage they need.