3-9-15 Feature Story:
One year after major challenges with the launch of the state's upgraded Health Connector website, more than 400,000 residents have successfully signed up for health coverage due in large part to the nearly 400 certified application counselors and navigators working at the state's 49 community health centers.
Health center outreach and enrollment staff have assisted the vast majority of residents eligible for Massachusetts' expanded Medicaid (MassHealth) program or subsidized health plans created under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). As of February 26, more than 125,402 residents had successfully enrolled in a Qualified Health Plan and another 286,255 had secured MassHealth coverage.
"The work of health center outreach and enrollment staff has once again made the difference in state efforts to reach the uninsured and underinsured," said James. W. Hunt, Jr., President and CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. "We are extremely proud of their expertise, patience and commitment in making sure that Massachusetts remains at the forefront of providing health coverage to its residents."
Moss Lynch, Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator at the South Boston Community Health Center (SBCHC), oversaw a community-wide information campaign to encourage local residents to sign-up for health coverage during the state's most recent open enrollment period. Born and raised in South Boston, Moss was familiar with the health center, having participated in its Youth Ambassadors Program (YAP) as a teenager. The YAP uses the arts, community service activities and peer-led health workshops focused on substance abuse prevention to recruit and engage local youth.
Several years later and armed with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's degree in communications, Moss applied for a new position funded through federal ACA funding to support outreach and enrollment efforts at health centers.
At the outset, Moss had little knowledge of the complex state and federal health reforms in play; however, it was his initial lack of understanding that he credits with ultimately helping him devise an effective strategy for reaching the community: "I think in many ways it was what I didn't know that helped me to think through the right approach for alerting community residents both about the need to reapply for coverage and the availability of new insurance programs."
As Moss steeped himself in the reforms and quickly mastered eligibility guidelines and the wide-ranging coverage options available to residents, he noticed something else: many of his co-workers had a limited understanding of health reform and the role of outreach and enrollment within the organization. Moss decided that his outreach plan had to include training for fellow employees and developed a set of PowerPoint slides which he presented at a series of staff meetings throughout open enrollment.
Says South Boston Community Health Center CEO Bill Halpin: "Moss' understanding that we needed support and buy-in from all of our departments was critical to ensuring that we signed up as many patients as possible for the best coverage available to them."
Once his program was underway, Moss became a regular participant on the League's monthly Outreach and Enrollment calls, discussing best practices and troubleshooting challenges with his health center peers. One such challenge was the processing of paper applications. Despite the many successes of the state's new hCentive platform, paper applications continued to be a necessary part of the enrollment process for some patients. Looking for ways to speed up their processing, Moss developed a series of "fillable" PDF forms that could be completed online. In addition, Moss worked with his IT department to install USB signature pads for patient applicants, and to set up a special fax printer that would allow enrollment staff to receive and send faxes electronically to Health Connector customer service agents.
What's more, Moss freely shared the forms and step-by-step instructions on how to use them with the other health centers.
"Moss' efforts to develop these forms, which have allowed enrollment staff to more easily assist patients, were extremely time-consuming and went well beyond the call of duty" said Liz Sanchez, the League's Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator.
"I grew up in South Boston, so it's been great giving back to my community in my new position," says Moss.
It appears that Moss' contributions have gone well beyond the needs of his own community.
Note: Health coverage enrollment through the Massachusetts Health Connector will continue for residents who qualify for MassHealth and subsidized health plans as well as for those who experience a change in circumstance affecting their eligibility status such as losing a job, getting married or having a child. Contact your local health center if you are in need of health coverage.