Regardless of your political views or your opinion of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is a lesson to be learned from the widely-publicized difficulties surrounding the release of the Federal government's online enrollment tool. Your document operations enterprise should be prepared to help your insurance company customers handle the remaining enrollment steps smoothly. Improving upon the frustrating experience that newly-insured individuals may have experienced just trying to sign up for coverage is an achievable goal.

There are probably lots of reasons why the ACA website failed so spectacularly on its debut. Questionable design and unanticipated demand could have been factors. Delays while waiting for a Supreme Court case, the outcome of a presidential election, and decisions to be made by individual states shortened development timelines and curtailed quality control and testing. The delays had to have had an impact on the high-profile final product.

Document operations could be impacted by those same delays - and suffer similar hardships. ACA policies and guidelines were still developing over the last few years. As a result, readiness on the part of insurers to respond to the new group of customers at which the legislation is aimed could be incomplete. They may be scrambling to catch up as the enrollments start to mount. Insurance companies, and their document operations support teams, find themselves in a similar position as the website designers. It would be unfortunate to make the same kinds of mistakes.

New Territory for Health Insurers
Selling directly to consumers will be a new experience for some insurance providers - at least on the scale that is anticipated. Before the ACA, most of the non-Medicare people covered by health insurance policies participated as members of a group. New documents may be necessary to service customers who are purchasing health insurance on their own for the first time. Additional educational material or easier-to-understand document formats could be helpful to assist customers who are unfamiliar with how health insurance works. Support for multiple languages is mandated by the law. These are areas where printing and mailing professionals can lend a hand.

One aspect of the ACA limits the amount of money that an insurer can spend on administrative and overhead expenses. Document professionals can help to keep the volume of calls to customer service low by making sure the documents they produce are clear, easily understood, and are in the appropriate language. Savings in customer support allows organizations more flexibility in how they spend their overhead dollars. Likewise, making sure that the documents are created and mailed out efficiently and reducing the need to reprint because of errors or undelivered materials can also contribute to the insurer's ability to comply with the new guidelines and remain profitable.

Obamacare may not be the most popular government program ever developed. But unless things change, it is the law. Outsource service providers and in-house document operations can put their best efforts into making sure the packets, kits, forms, and other documents that are necessary to implement and use health insurance are viewed as parts of the ACA that work as they should.

Mike Porter is an expert in Print and Mail operations and President of Print/Mail Consultants, an independent consulting firm that helps companies nationwide identify trouble spots in their production workflows. For more tips visit and sign up for Practical Stuff - the free newsletter for document operations. Your comments are welcome. Send them to Follow Mike on Twitter @PMCmike