By Michael Caprara
How deeply do most people review their health care benefits during the annual open enrollment period? As we move forward in the midst of a global pandemic, millions of Americans—especially those with disabilities—may be taking a closer look at their insurance policies. More than ever, it’s critical that insurance companies and employers be proactive in providing an accessible user experience for everyone reviewing and seeking coverage this season.
Like many aspects of our lives these days, health care and benefits information are going virtual. Employers may host enrollment webinars in lieu of in-person meetings, and those without employer health insurance will be reviewing plans through online marketplaces. Even care is moving online, with telehealth entering the mainstream.
Whether selecting a plan through an employer or independently, gaps in digital accessibility could leave individuals with visual, hearing, and motor disabilities without the option to make informed decisions about their health care and wellness.
Everyone loses when health care benefits aren’t accessible.
Imagine this: An individual with a vision impairment can’t log into an online portal because the page has been designed with low contrast text or is not compatible with screen reading software. If the individual in this scenario can’t access enrollment information or make necessary adjustments to their plan by the enrollment deadline, they may subsequently be without adequate care down the road.
According to current laws and compliance guidelines, your company has a responsibility to provide fair and equal access to digital information. An accessible website is ADA compliant and complies with other federal laws, such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act, as well as standards like WCAG.2.1. If your company hasn’t recently performed website and legal compliance audits, it may be missing the mark when it comes to accessibility.
This can leave you vulnerable to litigation, negatively impact brand image, and exclude many from vital information. The cost of a lawsuit, as well as a damaged reputation, far outweighs the cost of optimizing the digital experience for people with disabilities. In fact, data suggests the number of federal lawsuits filed over ADA non-compliance issues remains high, with a large number specifically centered around website and mobile app accessibility. In 2019, 2,256 lawsuits were filed in federal courts, just two less than the number filed the year before in 2018.
Set accessibility goals and follow them through.
The way to address the pressures of today’s compliance standards is to keep digital accessibility top-of-mind when creating new content, and actively re-evaluate and update existing content. Spanning from remediating digital documents, developing websites, and using CART (Communication Access Real-Time Translation) services for live virtual events and webinars, there are steps providers and employers can take now:
- Create a thorough accessibility plan and communicate it to your entire team.
- Identify the resources needed to meet your accessibility goals.
- Consult accessibility experts to ensure evolving compliance standards are fully met now and in the future.
- Look beyond the initial open enrollment period and ensure all participants can access dashboards, as well as complete documents and forms for claims, plan changes, etc.
In most states, the open enrollment period runs from November 1 through December 15, with plans effective January 1, 2021.
Looking for guidance on digital accessibility? The Viscardi Center’s Digital Accessibility experts are here to help.
Chief Information Officer, The Viscardi Center