In a recent NACHC Teleforum the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius noted that Community Health Centers have assisted and educated more than two million people about their health insurance options. The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurses Association (VNA)—an organization that creates community health wellness through partnerships and runs three Community Health Centers—is one of the tireless groups that made that two million number possible.
A medical home for the people of Routt and Moffat Counties in Colorado, VNA hit the ground running on October 1st and continued to encourage patients and their communities to find out more about their coverage options under the Affordable Care Act. VNA staff reached out at local community functions, speaking opportunities, and contacted small and large employers to spread the word about visiting the health center for insurance application assistance.
“Clients are eager to sign up for Medicaid or private insurance, especially if they qualify for special Cost-Sharing Reductions,” said Erin Gleason, Community & Small Business Health Insurance Coordinator. “These folks almost always elect to have better coverage even if it means paying more for their insurance.”
This includes a client who recently visited VNA to learn more about the Health Insurance Marketplace. A year earlier he suffered a terrible heart attack. He was worried his pre-existing heart condition would affect the price of a new policy. But he was surprised and really happy to find out he qualified for a better coverage plan at a lower price because of the ACA.
As the deadline for enrollment got down to the wire, the VNA partnered with the local hospital and Department of Human Services to host enrollment labs. People who attended the open enrollment events – some brought their own laptop computers—were assisted all the way through the process – from creating an account to completing the PEAK Medicaid application and finally choosing a plan with a Health Coverage Guide or insurance broker. The open enrollment events were a big success and the VNA is now implementing this strategy in surrounding counties.
Has the enrollment success led to more patients at the health center? “It is hard to tell,” said Gleason. “Benefits just kicked in January 1, but I think the answer is yes. We have opened our door to many more clients through the Connect for Health Colorado application assistance, and due to the hard work from our eligibility staff I think we have won over some new clients.”