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In this week’s Friday Five, Maximus is reading about ACA open enrollment, health IT priorities, continuing job losses, and the case for apprenticeship programs. 

1. Obamacare enrollment faces new challenges from courts, COVID-19

Open enrollment for Affordable Care Act (ACA) health insurance has begun, with coverage beginning January 1.  According to The Hill, millions may be newly eligible for coverage due to job losses. Experts are concerned these individuals may not be aware of their eligibility or the amount of subsidy they could receive. In addition, a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ACA will soon be under consideration by the Supreme Court. Concerns about that ruling could lower enrollment numbers.

2. HHS prioritizing health data access through smartphones in 5-year strategic plan 

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its strategic plan for health IT and health data exchanges. According to Fierce Healthcare, key objectives include improving access to individual health information, better use of data to address social determinants of health, supporting virtual care, and simplifying documentation. 

3. ‘It’s certainly going to get worse’: Businesses plan more layoffs, hiring freezes as COVID-19 escalates

A recent survey found that 9% of companies plan to lay off employees in the final months of 2020, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. USA Today reports this is in addition to companies that already conducted layoffs earlier in the year. Organizations are also planning to reduce or delay bonuses and/or raises, as well as freeze hiring, except for mission-critical positions. New unemployment claims fell at the end of October, but remain nearly four times higher than pre-COVID levels.

4. One year in, where does the federal data strategy go from here?

Members of the Chief Data Officers Council want to improve data literacy throughout federal government. According to Federal News Network, the group says recent visibility around their mission has helped them better identify and connect an informal community of data-savvy employees. While COVID-19 has delayed some efforts, it has also increased demand for projects like data dashboards. The Council’s 2021 goals include increasing interagency partnerships, while helping agencies address workforce or financial challenges.

5. The apprentice will rebuild America’s middle class

In this Forbes blog post, the author argues that the United States should adopt more apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeships would provide an alternative to college, help regions that have lost large percentages of jobs to offshoring, and help fill the need for skilled technicians in today’s ever more digital world.