Connector Board member Nancy Turnbull asked an important question on the ‘BUR CommonHealth blog on Tuesday, Why Are So Many Low-Income People In Massachusetts Still Uninsured?
Nancy reviewed the just-released 2009 Department of Revenue data on tax-reported health insurance coverage, and found that some 114,000 low-income uninsured taxpayers are likely eligible for state assistance, either through MassHealth or Commonwealth Care. Nancy asks how can we reach these people, and get them into coverage which will improve their health and protect against unaffordable medical costs.
HCFA’s Suzanne Curry added an important comment, reminding us that the state is backing off of its role working with community groups to find and enroll people eligible for health coverage:
Local community organizations are key partners in reaching hard-to-reach uninsured populations. With the inception of Massachusetts health reform, state policymakers recognized this and created a grant program to fund outreach, education, enrollment, and retention activities at local, trusted community organizations and community health centers. This funding is due to run out at the end of this month, and I know of several organizations that are shutting down or reducing services due to lack of funding. We need to make sure the state continues to invest in this outreach, education, enrollment, and retention work – it could mean the difference between reaching the “chronically” uninsured and maintaining the status quo, or worse, regressing.
We think that outreach funding is a worthy investment, and hope the state can find some way to keep these programs up and running. Funds run out in just 2 weeks, and as workers are laid off and programs closed, the long-term costs will only rise.