It’s been ten months and the Trump Administration’s agenda has been slowed to a crawl, in large part because of the high volume of unrelenting constituent pressure. That’s a tremendous accomplishment; every day that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) remains in place translates into literal lives saved.
Trump continues his relentless attempts to sabotage the ACA. Since Congress has yet to accomplish his single biggest priority, repealing the ACA, President Trump and his administration have instead launched an all-out assault on the parts of the law they can control, including Open Enrollment.
From November 1st to December 15th, Americans will be able to enroll or re-enroll in health care plans for 2018 on the federal marketplace, HealthCare.gov. (Note: 12 states run their own marketplaces and may have longer open enrollment periods.) Even though some state-run exchanges may have extended their enrollment deadlines, the fact is that this will be the shortest open enrollment period ever, and it is the only way for many uninsured Americans to get affordable health coverage for 2018.
Open Enrollment is generally the time of the year when people can sign up for health insurance through the marketplaces created by the ACA if they don’t get coverage through their employer or a government plan, like Medicaid or Medicare. Trump has sought to undermine this year’s ACA Open Enrollment period in a number of ways, including drastically shortening it and slashing outreach funding intended to raise awareness of Open Enrollment.
Trump is blatantly sabotaging Open Enrollment and Americans will pay the price. Because of this sabotage, the steady stream of misinformation coming from right-wing media, and Republicans’ 7-year campaign to discredit and repeal the Affordable Care Act, there is a lot of confusion out there about what Open Enrollment really is. It’s on all of us who care about our communities to make sure folks know about Open Enrollment and explore the best health insurance options for themselves and their families by the December 15th deadline.
Resist Trump’s sabotage by helping to spread the word. The best way to do that is to go out into our communities and talk about the facts. For the uninsured, that means making sure people know that coverage is more affordable than they think. For those who already have coverage through HealthCare.gov or their state marketplace, they need to know that they should come back and shop because plans and prices change every year and there might be a more affordable plan that meets their needs.
Indivisible groups are uniquely positioned to help with open enrollment. You’ve stood up to protect the Affordable Care Act relentlessly all year. You’ve held die-ins and sit-ins and protested to prevent Congress from repealing Americans’ ability to access affordable, quality health care—now it’s up to all of us to make sure everyone in our communities is able to access that care. This is a tremendous opportunity for Indivisible groups across the country to hit the streets and help your friends, family, and neighbors get the health care coverage you’ve fought so hard to defend.
This guide will provide you the tools you need you go into your communities and 1) educate people about Open Enrollment, and 2) direct people to HealthCare.gov or your state’s insurance marketplace so they can enroll or re-enroll in the plan that works best for them. This toolkit focuses on high-traffic canvassing as the best method for having these conversations, but we encourage you to be creative when thinking about how to run your own Indivisible group’s Open Enrollment campaign.
Now, let’s start planning!
We prepared a canvassing script to help you have great high-traffic canvassing events and created flyers to direct folks to your state’s marketplace and make sure people know your state’s enrollment deadline. Also be sure to check out the fact sheets from our friends at Get America Covered to help you answer any questions that may come up at your events. Click your state on the map below to download these resources. For a Text-to-Speech friendly list of the resource downloads click here.
Have an Open Enrollment planning meeting with your group (or even better, with multiple groups in your area). Discuss your group’s goals, your strategy, and what tactics you’ll use and when. Assign point people to take on social media outreach, canvass event planning, etc. Write it all down in a Google doc or an email and share it with your group members!
Start planning as soon as possible! Open Enrollment this year is the shortest it’s ever been—another way the Trump Administration is trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act by making it as hard as possible to enroll in coverage on the exchanges. Plan to hold at least one event in November before Thanksgiving, and more events in early December, as your state’s enrollment deadline approaches.
Note: The deadline to enroll in 2018 coverage in most states is December 15th, but California, Connecticut, DC, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington have extended deadlines to later in December or January.
- Set a time and place for your meeting. Use a member’s home, local community center, library, etc.
- Post an invitation to Facebook and/or email your members. Let them know what you’ll be talking about and when the meeting will be. Get RSVPs. This is also a fine meeting to have with just your leadership team if you have that setup.
- Write an agenda for the meeting. Your goal for the meeting is to give people the context of what we’re working to do, get their buy-in, and create a clear plan for Open Enrollment, with owners of each tactic and clear next steps. Make sure you walk through this toolkit and take in your members' input on which tactics they’re interested in.
- Share your plan with your group! Letting folks know in advance about your plan lets all of your members plan ahead and gives folks the chance to recruit others to join in!
This is generally the only time of the year when uninsured Americans or folks currently insured through HealthCare.gov can enroll in new plans or change the plan they have through the marketplaces. Our strategy for Open Enrollment is to SPREAD THE WORD. We don’t expect Indivisibles to become enrollment experts overnight—your strategy should be about making sure every single person in your community knows about Open Enrollment, knows where to go to sign up, and knows where to go to get help* signing up.
The best way to educate people in your community about Open Enrollment is to go out there and talk to them! Even as organizers are gaining more and more digital tools, the most effective and impactful way to have a conversation with a fellow constituent continues to be face to face.
Door-to-door canvassing is a great way to talk to reach people and have individual conversations about open enrollment, but until we can provide you with good data about which doors are best to speak with (it’s coming soon!), we’re recommending you focus on high-traffic canvassing, or speaking to people in public places.
Your goal as Indivisibles should be to talk to as many people as possible about Open Enrollment: whether it’s people who don’t currently have insurance, people who do but may want to check out newer plans on your state’s marketplace, or people who already have insurance but who can help you spread the word even further! You can also tell the people you’re talking to about your Indivisible group in the process, and recruit new members. Keep reading for an in-depth guide to high-traffic canvassing below!
We know Indivisible groups are pros at spreading the word about your events over social media, so take your social media savvy and apply it to spreading the word about Open Enrollment!
We created a click to tweet and click to post tool here. You can also check out these awesome social media graphics from Get America Covered and join the Indivisible ACA SignUp Project Facebook Group to take part in ThunderClap actions with other Indivisibles across the country.
Are there other organizations in your community that have already planned Open Enrollment campaigns, or that already work on health care issues and support for the uninsured? Offer your help! You can also see if local community health centers, hospitals, free clinics, or other health care industry organizations are organizing outreach efforts on Open Enrollment that you can tap into and support with your group members’ (wo)man power.
WHAT IS HIGH-TRAFFIC CANVASSING?
High-traffic canvassing simply means going to busy areas where there is a lot of foot traffic and having conversations with passersby. The conversations are similar to those you have during door-to-door canvassing, but instead of knocking on doors, you engage folks in conversation as they walk by. This could mean tabling at community events, or getting a small group to take clipboards to a busy shopping center or other public space with a lot of foot traffic.
In the past, we’ve guided you towards farmer’s markets, festivals, and parades to have these kinds of conversations. We know that there tend to be fewer public community events in November/December than there were during August Recess, for instance, but it will still be important to meet people where they’re at in your community.
Especially as Thanksgiving approaches, are there busy supermarkets in your area? As gift-giving holidays approach, are there busy shopping centers or malls where you could clipboard? Will there be food drives or other events aimed at helping folks in need during the holiday season? Are churches or other community organizations holding craft fairs or other events where you could set up an informational table?
Here are some great examples of places that you can reach out to:
- Local stores and shops (such as coffee shops, restaurants, laundromats, gas stations)
- Places of worship
- Community health centers
- Community colleges and other local adult education centers
Get creative and focus your energy on events and areas where there are more likely to be lower-income and uninsured folks in your community. Where possible, see if you can partner with religious institutions, community health centers, community colleges, or other community organizations to plan high-traffic canvassing at their events to make sure everyone knows about Open Enrollment.
HIGH TRAFFIC CANVASSING BASICS
- Come prepared. You can find all the materials you need (flyers, fact sheet, script, etc.) in this toolkit. One member of your group should print out a few scripts and plenty of flyers to bring to your event. You’ll also want a clipboard with a sign-up sheet for folks who are interested in joining your group! You should definitely bring water and snacks for your group members, and dress warmly if you’ll be out in the cold! If you can bring a little card table to set up some flyers on (with a paperweight), that’s great. But don’t sit behind it, stand in front of it; you’ll talk to way more people!
- Put on a smile. It may sound silly, but having the right mindset and a positive energy will make a big difference in your conversations and will make passerby more likely to stop to talk with you.
- Ask everyone. You should attempt to engage with every person that walks by, and be assumptive that they’re going to stop (even though you know lots of people won’t). If you’re in a really busy area, you may want to have a partner so that you don’t miss anyone. Try to make eye contact and start with a friendly wave and a greeting from 10-15 feet away.
- Practice your hook. Chances are most of the folks you want to talk to are on their way somewhere, so you’re going to need to give them a reason to stop. Try to avoid yes or no questions, get right to point, and get creative. “Hi there! We’re spreading the word about Open Enrollment today—have you signed up for health insurance for 2018?”
- It’s OK to get a lot of nos. If you’re getting a lot of nos, don’t worry about it. You’re going to be talking to a lot of people, so you’ll find a lot who you’ll have a great conversation with, but plenty who won’t want to stop. Don’t be discouraged! Keep your smile and keep talking to people.
- Perfect your ask. Once you start a conversation, you’re asking folks if they know about Open Enrollment, need help enrolling in a plan, or can help spread the word to other people about Open Enrollment. You’re also asking folks to come to your next Indivisible meeting. Lastly, you’re handing them a flyer about Open Enrollment. It’s nice to keep a little tick sheet where you keep track of how many folks you’ve stopped, how many folks you’ve directed to enrollment resources, and how many commit to checking out your group, so you can see how well you’re doing!
- Don’t spend time with people who disagree with you. We have a lot to do and a lot of people will be skeptical of what you’re doing or want to outright bash the ACA. No need to spend time with folks who don’t agree, you have better things to do. If someone gets heated, it’s OK to end the conversation quickly with “I guess we’ll agree to disagree,” or “OK, sounds like we’re on opposite sides of this, and we can both get on with our day!” No need to draw things out!
- Approach groups and stragglers. If the foot traffic dies down, you should approach folks who are lingering in the area. Folks who are in line are great for this, they’re just standing around. Though it may be slightly intimidating to go up to a group for the first time, these may be some of your best conversations because you’re hitting multiple people at once and they’re not on the way anywhere so they’ll have more time to talk.
- Debrief. Debrief with your group. What went well? What was difficult? What best practices can you all try next time?
- Follow Up: Call and email the folks who signed up to come to your next meeting as quickly as possible, within the next couple days. Follow up within 48 hours greatly increases the chances that that person will remember the interaction and come to your meeting!
HIGH TRAFFIC CANVASSING DOS & DON’TS
PREPARING FOR A HIGH TRAFFIC CANVASS
- Set a date. Pick a time (or times) that would work well for your group members and would be convenient for new members to get involved. Generally, weekends and evenings during the week are the best times to do high-traffic canvassing, but tailor your events around community events that are already on the calendar!
- Publicize the event. Update your group and get commitments. Use this activity as an opportunity to bring in new folks too. Make calls to your neighbors, post in various Facebook groups, ask every group member to bring a friend. Make sure you register your event with us, too! We will help promote the event in your area and to the press.
- Secure a good location: See above for good location ideas! Call and ask if you can set up a table, if you think they’d be amenable to it. If you don’t, it’s OK to show up and ask forgiveness instead of permission, but let your people know in advance that they might be asked to leave. Obviously, that’s less ideal. Make sure you have several backup locations if canvassers are asked to leave.
- Print out materials for your people: scripts for each canvasser, 40-50 flyers per canvasser, and a couple sets of fact sheets and sign-up sheets for each canvasser.
HIGH TRAFFIC CANVASSING: TRAINER’S AGENDA
High traffic canvassing is really fun and a very important organizing activity. However, a quality training is absolutely key to make sure canvassers have a positive experience and get a good result. This training is designed to take about 25 minutes and can be done with one canvasser or with a large group.
- Welcome everyone as they arrive and thank them for coming.
- Have each volunteer sign in.
- Provide volunteers with materials: flyers, sign up sheets on a clipboard, script, fact sheets, pens, etc!
- Direct volunteers to the training area while you wait for a critical mass to arrive. Introduce them to one another and encourage them to get to know each other while they wait.
Welcome (2 minutes)
- Gather everyone together. Introduce yourself and thank everyone for coming!
- If it’s a small enough group, have all the volunteer introduce themselves as well.
- Provide an overview of the training and the day.
- Give context about the activity—it’s Open Enrollment and Indivisible groups across the country will be participating in activities just like this to spread the word and help people get enrolled. This is important to talk people through, so don’t skimp on it!
Context: Why are We Doing This? (3 minutes)
- Explain the importance of High-traffic Canvassing—face to face conversations are one of the best tools we have as organizers.
- We want to spread the word about Open Enrollment, dispel misinformation about the Affordable Care Act, help connect people to resources they need to get enrolled, and also recruit new members to our group.
How To (10 minutes)
- Review the High Traffic Canvassing Basics, Do’s and Don’ts, and the High Traffic Canvassing script.
- Demonstrate with a volunteer what a good high traffic conversation looks like.
Role Play (15 minutes)
- Have folks as a group walk around in a big (50 foot) circle. First the trainer should demonstrate good greetings (wave, smile, and ask to stop and talk about...Open Enrollment, Indivisible, etc), and then have each person practice greeting people as they walk by. No-one should stop, but no-one should be rude; the point is for that person to get practice waving and smiling at folks from a little distance away, getting out a short greeting. Keep having the person greeting switch out, and the last person joins the folks walking around.
- Have volunteers pair up and practice the script and their asks.
Q&A (5 minutes)
- Leave a few minutes at the end for volunteers to ask their questions.
- Make sure everyone feels comfortable, while also being mindful of time and getting everyone out the door.
Before Volunteers Leave
Make sure all volunteers are ready to go and have the following:
- Your contact information and their partner’s contact information
- A location to start at and a few backup locations
- Directions to their location
- Clear expectations and an understanding of the task
- While your volunteers are out, consider checking in on them with an encouraging phone call, text or even an in person visit.
- When volunteers arrive back greet them with enthusiasm and thank them again for their great work.
- Before the volunteers leave, have them sign up for their next shift.
- A few days after the event, call volunteers to thank them for their time and celebrate success.