State exchange leaders: 4 secrets to HIX success

Challenges, lessons learned, 'secret sauce' to exchange enrollment

More than 100 days into open enrollment, state-based exchanges continue to outperform their federal counterpart. Their road to success wasn't easy, leaders at four state exchanges said this morning at a press briefing hosted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Check out these four secrets to HIX success that participants, from exchanges in Kentucky, Rhode Island, California and Washington, D.C., shared with the audience.

1. Experience

Part of Kentucky's "secret sauce" to exchange implemenation was putting its state exchange, Kynect, under the Cabinet for Health & Family Services, which also includes Medicaid and other health policy departments. Having all of those programs in the same cabinet removed structural barriers, said Audrey Haynes, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Moreover, the proximity of the Medicaid department meant the exchange also had an experienced IT department to support it. "We had a lot of experience within the cabinet at bringing up very large IT structures," Haynes said.

That experience certainly has helped enrollment: As of this morning, the state has more than 195,500 enrollees, with about 76.1 of the overall enrollment qualifying for Medicaid.

2. Customer service

Open enrollment has shown marketplaces need to focus on better customer service. "Customer service is essential, and it is real private-sector-kind of customer service we need to provide," Christine Ferguson, director of the Rhode Island Health Benefits Exchange, told reporters.

Looking to boost customer service performance, Covered California has hired hundreds of new customer service workers, many of whom will be bilingual, Executive Director Peter Lee said. The California exchange also will add self-service tools for consumers, conduct email tests and follow up with consumers who have started the enrollment process.

Meanwhile, Kentucky relies on more than 2,000 certified exchange insurance agents, as well as navigators to help individuals and small businesses enroll in coverage, Haynes noted.