Things do change. So much for press releases and newspaper stories. kynect announced the newest edition of its mobile phone app recently with a social media thunderclap. If you don’t know what a thunderclap is, don’t feel bad, you’re not alone…
With kynect, the Commonwealth’s state-based version of the Affordable Care Act, a virtual marketplace was created where consumers can come who do not receive healthcare coverage from other sources, such as employers, retirement benefits, Medicare or from the private market.
By supplying basic demographic information and income the system can check immediately whether a person is Medicaid eligible or if that individual or family qualifies for a tax credit and special discounts to help offset the premium amount of a private plan on the Exchange. Users can then shop and buy plans from traditional insurers like Anthem or Humana.
There is plenty of messaging out there already about how kynect works, similar to how pellets from a shotgun blast spread. Stories are scattered across the airwaves in commercials, print media and radio. These reach certain audiences, but what about those that still are not covered and don’t read newspapers, listen to the radio or catch a show where a kynect advertisement is featured?
Social media continues to be somewhat of a nontraditional source of information dissemination. The idea being that there is the possibility of locating people that haven’t been reached yet through more traditional messaging. Coincidentally that is partly the same thinking behind why the Exchange designed a mobile app.
kynect applications can be completed through your computer with no assistance if you are computer savvy, but it can be tricky. People just are not sure about how to answer certain questions or the system can lock up on you. The kynect contact center allows applications to be taken over the phone, but after the first open enrollment in 2013-2014, when there wasn’t sufficient training nor staffing to handle the deluge of calls, it’s not surprising some folks are hesitant to call again for help.
There also are kynectors and insurance agents in every Kentucky county that have been trained to take applications free of charge. Many people seek out their assistance, but that is another layer of bureaucracy that must be navigated.
The mobile app is designed to place power in the hands of individuals to monitor and access kynect without assistance. It’s as simple as that. It’s a tool to make it easier for people to administer their healthcare, which keeps getting more complicated.
[WATCH: kynect Mobile Phone App Release 2.1]
Additionally, after conducting consumer focus groups and listening to tons of client feedback, it is apparent that many residents of Kentucky still do not have reliable access to home computers or Internet service, but a whole lot of these folks do have smart phones.
With the mobile app you can log into kynect, check your mail, and see the health plans you are enrolled in. If you need to submit verification documents, now you can take a picture of them instead of having to get copies made and then either mailing them or dropping them off at a Department of Community Based Services’ office. Photos of verification documents can be uploaded directly to your account through your smart phone.
The initial release and follow-up release of the mobile app lacked this level of pertinent functionality. It allowed users to prescreen for plans, and kynectors and agents could be located in your immediate area, but that wasn’t reason enough to download another app to your phone – especially one having to do with healthcare.
I hoped to use the social media thunderclap to better get the message out about this new functionality, not necessarily directly to the clients, but instead to other grassroots organizations and companies that touched directly with client bases, and by reaching those organizations, our message could then trickle down to the client level through a trusted source.
The basic concept behind the thunderclap was to identify those organizations that had an association with kynect and assisted people getting hooked up with healthcare coverage.
There are obvious examples like the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Gov. Steve Beshear, who has tirelessly supported kynect, our kynector agencies, Department of Insurance, the trade associations representing insurance agents, insurers on the Exchange, Healthcare.gov and other national organizations advocating for increased access to coverage.
Many of the folks I included were the result of monitoring social media. I kept track of who tended to repost or retweet messages I put out for kynect, or who were the people that I took notice of that pushed “Get Covered” messaging I found significant.
More time consuming became identifying the appropriate communications contact at each organization, in particular that administered social media posting, then reaching out to them, pitching the idea, and obtaining their contact info. This had me crawling through agency websites and making a lot of phone calls.
I created a spreadsheet to track it all, and copied the e-mail addresses into a group contact in Outlook so I could send participant information to all involved.
Through this process I continued to tweak and add parties. Originally I was only going to send out a simple message over Twitter and Facebook, but after talking to more people there tended to be a large spectrum in terms of the normality of general social media usage between organization to organization.
Some used a variety of platforms, others only Facebook, and still others used no true social media but sent out monthly newsletters as their primary source of communication between their constituencies.
Time also had to be built in to the process for initial notification to go out and for agency contacts to get approval to participate in the kynect thunderclap.
The Affordable Care Act, and particularly President Obama, remain controversial in Kentucky, so while many organizations might be stakeholders in the healthcare market, that doesn’t mean they necessarily support the idea of kynect succeeding.
I appreciate the idea of political cover, but it seemed short sighted. For the most part the concept of kynect succeeding is purely a business decision. More people coming to the Exchange for their healthcare needs generally is good for all involved. Not wanting to publicly support kynect only serves to hinder the profitability of those organizations.
I drafted an e-mail that explained the enhanced functionality behind the latest mobile app release, and drew attention to the fact that this technological advancement offering healthcare management in the palm of your hand as another opportunity of solidarity to celebrate the success of the Affordable Care Act.
This e-mail contained images for use on Twitter, Facebook and newsletters, the messaging to go along with each, and the date and time for the thunderclap.
Ideally what I wanted to see was for all these local and national organizations either to repost the message I put out, or use the language and images provided in my e-mail in order to craft a similar message and post that from their own social accounts.
By having all these organizations post and repost the same message at the same time on the same day, it creates this virtual “thunderclap” of noise in kynect’s social media universe that ripples across the feeds of all these other individual users who might not be friends or followers of kynect. This in turn increases our brand awareness.
By using the hashtag #GetKynected, it plays off our name and gave me a way to track all users who utilized the hashtag.
In the end between one-third and 50 percent of those contacted participated, which I found to be a rather successful result considering the complexity of the issue and its continued “hot potato” status as a political issue.
Notably absent from participation was every hospital organization and health care system contacted. They tend to not like this new level of transparency the ACA has brought about, which allows for a greater scrutiny of what medical procedures and hospital stays cost, along with a renewed debate about compensation packages of hospital CEOs.
Yet these same health care providers are making money off the ACA from all the sick people coming for care. Previously their bills were written off as uncompensated care, but now a level of reimbursement is provided from Medicaid or a qualified health plan.
Providers need to get right with this new way of health coverage, because the old system is gone. Ultimately, it is the job of doctors and healthcare providers to offer aid and comfort. They need to get past the money aspect because in Kentucky alone over 500,000 residents have flocked to kynect.
And I’ll let you in on a dirty little secret, kynect is Obamacare.
The second Open Enrollment Period is now closed, and it was a long one. Honestly the first one never really ended when you take into consideration all the problem cases that required data fixes on their accounts. Cases from 2014 were still getting repaired as the 2015 Open Enrollment Period began on November 15, 2014.
Officially, February 15, 2015 signaled the end of the 2015 Open Enrollment Period – but due to the crush in demand leading up to the deadline two extra weeks were added. That got us to March and then a Special Enrollment Period started for individuals who still had no health coverage, but were adversely impacted on their 2014 income taxes for not having healthcare. That took us through the end of April.
No matter how you cut it kynect and the Affordable Care Act have made a huge impact, particularly in a rural state like Kentucky, where poverty and health issues go hand-in-hand.
In 2013, Kentucky ranked 40th in the percentage of people who lacked health insurance, at 20.4 percent. After a full year of implementation the uninsured rate dropped to just 9.4 percent, raising the Bluegrass to 11th best in the country, according to a poll conducted by Gallup. This was the second sharpest reduction in the nation next to Arkansas.
By expanding Medicaid and enacting a state-based health insurance exchange, hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians have been able to benefit from quality, affordable health care, many for the first time.
This matters when you have dismal health rankings that put Kentuckians at the bottom of many catastrophic categories:
49th in smoking; 46th in obesity; 33rd in diabetes; 50th in cancer deaths; 43rd in cardiovascular deaths; 50th in preventable hospitalizations; 50th in poor mental health days; and 48th in drug-related deaths.
Change is not easy, but be patient. The old healthcare system was not viable any longer from a financial standpoint, nor from the aspect that it discriminated against women and those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Look at this first version of the Affordable Care Act like the opening cup of coffee in an ongoing conversation. More changes and tweaks to the program will come, but ultimately this is the righteous path to follow as more of society is given the opportunity to receive access to quality care that is affordable.