—Online story by Marisa Demarco. Radio report by Deborah Martinez
Medical residents at UNM created a free app to help New Mexicans get hooked into health care.
The app, called Get Covered New Mexico, can aid folks in calculating what they’re eligible for. It links directly to websites people can use to apply for Medicaid and the health care exchange. It also points the way to the nearest physical location to apply for services in-person.
And it works entirely on your cell phone. Healthcare.gov has been heavily criticized for bad mobile design.
The local app project arose from an effort this summer to spread the word about the Affordable Care Act. There was way too much information to fit on a flier, said Erin Corriveau, a fellow at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Why don’t we make an app that takes into account all of our obsession with mobile technology. It would be a great platform to put more information out there.”
Corriveau is a Las Cruces native who got her medical education at UNM and did her residency in New Mexico. She said the state holds a special place in her heart, and the app should meet some of the diverse and unique needs of New Mexico. “It is difficult to get information to people in our state,” because of its rural nature, she said. There are more than 160,000 New Mexicans who are newly eligible for full coverage with no premiums or cost sharing, according to the Center on Law and Poverty.
Phone tech is up and coming in the field of public health, she added. “A goal of the app was then to get really good information into the hands of people who need it most.” About 56 percent of American adults are smartphone owners, according to the Pew Research Center.
An interdisciplinary team of physician residents from UNM, students at the Anderson School of Management, and the Center on Law and Poverty developed the app and ensured that it passed legal muster. Their goal was, in part, to to combat misinformation about the Affordable Care Act. “We were very concerned that there are a lot of rumors going around about the new health care legislation,” Corriveau said. The Get Covered New Mexico app should help dispel those myths and show people exactly how the coming changes in health care will play out for them.
The app can also be used by rural health centers and community health workers looking to spread the word on what’s available, Corriveau said. It might also encourage young people sign up, which is vital to sustaining the program. “It’s really going to create a better pool of people in the health exchange if we do it this way,” she said.