There has been a glut of news and events about outreach and enrollment as the ticking clock brings us closer to the October 1 deadline when open enrollment kicks off. The mechanics of spreading the word about the health insurance marketplaces slated to start up is one of the biggest challenges in Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation. The complex effort of explaining the new law and its benefits and plans starts at the bottom up. That is why as trusted community providers health centers are on the frontlines of this massive effort, hiring outreach and enrollment staff and racing toward the goal of getting them trained in helping patients choose their coverage options and determine their eligibility. A few highlights are worth noting in the limited space we have:
The health outreach workers from Yakima Neighborhood Health Services (YNHS) in Yakima, WA, working a booth at the Farmer’s Market were recently spotlighted by the Yakima Herald-Republic. The article notes that in person assisters will set up at schools, churches, and even county fairs to help patients look for plans in the online insurance exchanges or determine their Medicaid eligibility. “I think we’re feeling really good about where we are,” said Rhonda Hauff, Chief Operating Officer at YNHS.
That same optimism was also in evidence in Florida. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius recently made a stop there to spread the word about enrollment and meet with community organizations on the ground who are educating Floridians about their new health insurance options. Stiff opposition to the new law has posed many obstacles, but hospitals, nonprofits, faith groups and health centers are working together. Andrew Behrman, president of the Florida Association of Community Health Centers, noted in a recent Miami Herald article that “federal grants given to state health centers in May has led to the hiring of 400 outreach and education workers, including 100 in South Florida who also will help the uninsured learn more about their options for health insurance coverage under the law. ‘We’re on the ground,’ Behrman said.”
Further north in Chambersburg, PA Keystone Rural Health is ready to get newly hired navigators out into the streets. “This is an unprecedented opportunity to enroll anyone and everyone that’s eligible in some kind of health insurance,” President and CEO Joanne Cochran told the local media outlet, Public Opinion Online. “Health insurance is key in this environment. If you don’t have health insurance, you don’t have access. It’s that simple.”
Outreach and enrollment is not just a topic for traditional media, but also social media. On Facebook and Twitter, health centers and SRPCAs are showcasing how they are reaching out and hiring staff to make sure the communities they serve are ready. For instance, check out these videos produced by the West Virginia Primary Care Association.
The outreach and enrollment effort aims to ensure that no one is overlooked. The Obama Administration has also reached out to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and held a summit last week to promote Out2Enroll – a campaign to connect the LGBTs to health coverage — and Legacy Community Health Services in Houston, TX, was among those invited to attend. Vice President for Public Affairs Randall Ellis told the NACHC Blog, “It was clear that this administration is depending on Community Health Centers to do a lot of the heavy lifting in helping people access affordable quality health care.”
Share with us the cool stuff your health center is doing to get ready for October 1 and we’ll consider posting it on the blog.