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The REACH Foundation awarded Enrollment Assistance grants totaling $300,000 to eight organizations to increase enrollment for health coverage through HealthCare.gov and other public benefits. With the latest round of grants announced in September, the total invested in this area is $1.94 million since 2016.
Enrollment Assistance grants aim to help eligible consumers enroll in HealthCare.gov and for public benefits including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Women Infants and Children (WIC) and other programs. Organizations were selected based on experience with the health insurance marketplace and other benefit programs, and skills in overcoming barriers to coverage due to language, literacy, documentation and other issues.
“COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of helping people secure affordable coverage and care that can help them maintain good health,” said Brenda Sharpe, REACH President and CEO. “Enrollment assistance, one of our REACH Foundation priorities, is a key strategy to connecting people to benefits for which they qualify.”
Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center, one of the grantees, serves a large population of the Kansas City area’s immigrants and refugees. Jim Torres, program manager of Health Insurance Services at Rodgers Health, said insurance “is a mystery” to many of their clients. “Our team brings years of experience, language skills and cultural understanding to the work we do to get people enrolled – and then to help them understand how to use coverage,” Torres said.
Rodgers Health has a staff of six assisters. Staff members speak Spanish and Vietnamese, and use a language services line for other languages. Torres said the team receives referrals from the health center’s clinics, patient care representatives and community health workers, as well as word-of-mouth recommendations from prior clients. The staff also review patient rosters to identify people who have not enrolled in coverage to help them through the eligibility process.
Like most health providers, the Rodgers team has adjusted their approach for the COVID-19 pandemic – using a web-based app that can be accessed by phone and allow assisters to conduct virtual, face-to-face meetings when possible. Other grant recipients have made similar adjustments to how they meet clients’ needs.
Greta Ingle, Enrollment Assistance Coordinator for Thrive Allen County in Iola, Kansas, said that despite COVID-19, people still call to schedule in-person assistance. Thrive promotes its services through medical providers and community events, but word-of-mouth is a steady source of referrals, too. Ingle said fall can be a busy season. Medicare enrollment begins Oct. 15 and the health insurance marketplace starts on Nov. 1. However, Ingle said, benefit needs run year-round.
The Enrollment Assistance grants cover a 12-month period. Three organizations were awarded $50,000 grants; five organizations received $30,000 awards.
Recipients of the $50,000 grants include:
Recipients of the $30,000 grants include:
The REACH Foundation identified enrollment assistance as a key strategy within the Enroll All Eligible outcome area as part of the foundation’s five-year strategic plan. Since 2016, the foundation has awarded 54 grants to support enrollment assistance efforts across the REACH six-county service area.
Grants have supported enrollment efforts in rural communities, with individuals who are chronically homeless, immigrant and refugee populations, individuals with mental health needs, and other frequently medically underserved populations.