Two University of New Mexico-trained physicians and a business school professor have teamed up to develop a smartphone app that they hope will help New Mexicans “Get Covered” under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The mobile phone and tablet application, “Get Covered New Mexico,” is intended to provide users with “truthful, solid information about what the ACA is and isn’t,” said Dr. Erin Corriveau, a family medicine physician and UNM School of Medicine graduate who also completed her residency at UNM. She’s currently a preventive medicine fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
While “Get Covered” doesn’t allow users to enroll in health insurance programs offered under the new healthcare law, it does provide tools and information designed to help them better understand what their health insurance options might be, where they can apply for coverage and what documentation they’ll need to enroll.
Corriveau hopes that the app, which is free and available for download on Apple and Android devices, appeals to a young demographic.
“It’s important to get young, healthy people into the insurance pool to make the health care law work, make it viable,” Corriveau said.
She began the project last summer with the help of fellow family medicine physician Dr. Kate McCalmont and Prof. Nick Flor, a faculty member at the UNM Anderson School of Management. Flor, a programmer who teaches app development at the school, says he was the “code monkey” for the project, while Corriveau and McCalmont worked with legal and health literacy experts to produce the app content.
“We started thinking about how we could influence enrollment and the kind of impact (a smartphone app) could have on the state, where 20 percent of the population is uninsured,” said McCalmont, a resident in the UNM School of Medicine’s Department of Family and Community Medicine.
“Get Covered” includes a calculator that allows users to enter income and other information and then returns information on what kind of insurance coverage the user might be eligible for – Medicare, Medicaid or a subsidized policy under the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. The app also contains a map that uses GPS technology to identify sites where users can get help enrolling in coverage.
To ensure that the app’s content was as clear and accurate as possible, Corriveau sought advice from health literacy experts at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and she turned to the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty in Albuquerque to help ensure documentation was correct.
“We wanted to make this as clear and as accessible as possible,” Corriveau said, adding that “moving targets” in the new health law – changing enrollment deadlines and other glitches in the ACA rollout – made the effort more challenging.
“Let’s not kid ourselves,” Flor said. “The ACA has many glitches that need to be fixed. But if all citizens do what they can to help, we will eventually evolve a good healthcare system.”
Flor added that he, McCalmont and Corriveau developed the “Get Covered” app for free, “with only good intentions driving our efforts.”
“I like volunteering if there’s learning involved, and I did learn a lot about the ACA,” Flor said.