January 31, 2013

CHA enlists in Enroll America to Expand Health Insurance Coverage

Starting in October, low-income uninsured Americans will be eligible to sign up for Medicaid benefits or health insurance subsidies established in the Affordable Care Act. The insurance benefits take effect Jan. 1, and could potentially provide coverage for 32 million uninsured adults. But getting to that goal will take a massive education and enrollment campaign. Public opinion research shows that an alarmingly large majority of people who stand to gain from the law, know little or nothing about it.

To get the word out and help ensure that all eligible Americans sign up for Medicaid or insurance subsidies under soon-to-be launched insurance exchanges, CHA and Ascension Health enlisted as charter members of Enroll America. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit counts civic groups, philanthropies, doctors, hospitals, pharmacy companies, health insurers, and labor and consumer groups among its partners.

Enroll America is ramping up to launch a major national public relations and education campaign that will include advertising, social media, community-based public events and tactics to get information directly to hard-to-reach target groups. CHA will work in the Enroll America coalition to support the campaign and to develop enrollment tools and resources.
“Now that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, our next great challenge is making sure those who are eligible for new coverage are aware of that fact and can obtain the insurance,” said Sr. Carol Keehan, DC, CHA’s president and chief executive officer. “This is a tremendous opportunity for our nation and those who cannot currently afford meaningful, reliable health coverage.”
Enrollment is always a challenge when new programs and coverage options become available, and members of the Catholic health ministry have repeatedly risen to those challenges. For example, as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, first rolled out and was later expanded, Catholic groups including CHA members and Catholic Charities agencies assumed a leadership role in community education outreach and in signing children up for coverage.

In the six years following SCHIP’s enactment in 1997, Catholic hospitals and Catholic Charities agencies created Children’s Health Matters, an advocacy and enrollment project, which helped more than 600,000 families complete applications for Medicaid and SCHIP; trained 43,000 individuals to assist with enrollment and held 8,500 community education events to raise awareness of coverage options for children.

Enrollment matters
A 2002 study by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured found that 99 percent of children had a regular source of primary care after one year of enrollment in Medicaid or SCHIP coverage, and 85 percent had a regular dentist.
Enroll America is researching best practices for no-wrong-door access to insurance benefits under the ACA including enrolling people at health centers, hospitals, physician offices and community gathering places. Presumptive eligibility, which allows health care providers to enroll people in Medicaid before their eligibility is confirmed, was important in expanding SCHIP coverage and “can create a glide-path to enrollment” under the ACA, according to Rachel Klein, executive director of Enroll America.
The Enroll America website explains: “We believe the ‘enrollment gap’ can be addressed by creating a seamless, consumer-friendly enrollment process and by making a coordinated, concerted and wide-reaching effort to ensure that Americans know how and where to sign up for coverage.”

CHA will keep the ministry informed about ways in which they can participate in, or contribute to, Enroll America, said Jeff Tieman, CHA’s chief of staff. Tieman led CHA’s efforts to promote SCHIP and public awareness of the need for broader health reform during the fight to pass the ACA. As part of its decades-long commitment to health reform, CHA was a sponsor of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-led Cover the Uninsured Week education campaign.

“When it came time each year for Cover the Uninsured Week, Catholic hospitals were the first to step up, holding hundreds of events across the country to encourage health reform and coverage for all,” Tieman said.

“With the ACA comes a new opportunity for Catholic health care to lead the nation in education, outreach and enrollment,” he sai