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Federally funded Pennsylvania nonprofits reach out to enroll uninsured

In the Affordable Care Act’s third open-enrollment period, a group of federally funded Pennsylvania nonprofits aims to sign up for health insurance some of the people who have proved hardest to reach: Latinos, blacks, immigrants and people who live in rural areas.

Six organizations received about $3 million in federal grants to try to enroll an estimated 340,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians who are eligible for either private insurance or Medicaid, according to state and federal agencies and a national nonprofit.

Open enrollment for health plans sold on the federal marketplace begins Nov. 1, when the six organizations — some representing multiple nonprofits — will start sending enrollment specialists to libraries, employment centers, grocery stores, barbershops, restaurants and other gathering places to sign people up for health insurance, the nonprofits said. Open enrollment ends Jan. 31.

“We’ve learned that it’s best to reach people where they’re in the community at the times that are convenient to them,” said Leslie Bachurski, interim director of Consumer Health Coalition, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that enrolls people with help from the federal funds.

The nonprofits said they are focused on enrolling an estimated 178,000 uninsured Pennsylvanians who are eligible for federal tax credits that lower monthly premiums, along with about 160,000 who are newly eligible for Medicaid but have not signed up. Gov. Tom Wolf expanded Medicaid early this year to everyone in the state who makes more than 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,250 for an individual.

Reliable numbers for uninsured minorities are difficult to obtain, since many people don’t report race on their insurance documents. But Latinos and blacks are among populations who traditionally have difficulty in accessing social services such as health care, said Beth Heeb, chief operating officer for YWCA Greater Pittsburgh, another organization that received federal funding for enrollment.

The YWCA is targeting low-income areas with limited resources, such as the Monongahela Valley and parts of the South Side, for its outreach, Heeb said.

Pennsylvania nonprofits received about $2.4 million in 2014 and about $2.7 million in 2013 for enrollment, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The organizations receiving grants in 2015 are scheduled to get funding for the next two years, according to CMS.

About 398,000 Pennsylvanians have signed up for health plans through the federal marketplace, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a national nonprofit that focuses on health care research. Of those, about 320,000 receive tax credits that lower their premiums.

Wes Venteicher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or [email protected].


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