March 19, 2014
Austin, Texas – March 19, 2014 – Elected officials and community leaders joined Central Health and United Way for Greater Austin (UWATX) today to encourage Travis County residents to enroll in a health insurance plan under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) before the upcoming March 31 open enrollment deadline.
Today’s event is part of a months-long partnership by Central Health, UWATX and community organizations to organize local resources, including more than $1.3 million in funding from Central Health, to provide enrollment assistance and educate residents about new coverage options through the ACA. Three community organizations – Latino Healthcare Forum, Austin Interfaith, and Foundation Communities – lead the centerpiece of this effort, a “boots on the ground” campaign to build awareness and provide enrollment assistance to thousands of Travis County residents without a history of coverage or who live in traditionally underserved areas. This outreach effort is funded by Central Health and coordinated by UWATX.
Central Health and UWATX have also collaborated on 2-1-1 Health Connect, a public awareness and media campaign using culturally appropriate materials in English, Spanish and Vietnamese to address the specific questions and needs of uninsured, underinsured and low-income Travis County residents, including targeted outreach to Austin’s music community and the food service industry. A combination of radio, television, and print promotions, paired with an extensive digital media campaign and in-person outreach, are driving ACA-related calls to UWATX’s 2-1-1 Navigation Center, which provides more information about coverage and connects callers with local resources for application assistance. Calls by residents interested in coverage have quadrupled since the campaign’s launch in December, with hundreds of callers each week taking the first step to connect to coverage. Web sites for 2-1-1 Health Connect see thousands of visitors each week, many of whom opt into email and text message reminders to get covered by the March 31 open enrollment deadline.
United Way for Greater Austin President Debbie Bresette said, “United Way for Greater Austin and Central Health have created a highly effective public-private partnership over the past four years to support health care needs for Travis County and beyond. We are successfully able to connect area residents to health care resources including Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Medical Access Program (MAP), as well as health insurance opportunities and enrollment support. The UWATX 2-1-1 Navigation Center received more than 120,000 health-related calls in 2013, and achieved a 98 percent caller satisfaction rate. Through our continuing strategic partnership with Central Health, we are pleased to provide this broad and effective health care resource for the Greater Austin community.”
Central Health has a history of supporting expanded coverage options. The Board of Managers created the locally funded Sendero Health Plans, Inc. in 2011 to provide health plans for low-income Central Texans. Sendero’s IdealCare plan is the only local non-profit Qualified Health Plan among those available in the Federal Health Insurance Marketplace in Travis County.
“The Central Health Board of Managers recognized early in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act that in order to make the most of this historic opportunity, we and our partners would need to hunker down and come up with ways to effectively take important information about the ACA directly to the community. We have partnered with community organizations to maximize the potential of our outreach. All of our work is culturally sensitive and designed to reach people in ways that make sense and truly help them to understand the significance of the ACA. We feel our work in educating the public about the new options and opportunities available to them is perfectly in line with our mission, and I speak for the whole Board of Managers when I say I am proud of our work and our participation in the rollout of the ACA,” Central Health Board of Managers Chairperson Brenda Coleman-Beattie said.
Speakers encouraged residents to make use of local resources like 2-1-1 to access information and assistance that can help them enroll in a plan before the open enrollment deadline on March 31. Elected officials and leaders participating in the press conference included United States Congressman Lloyd Doggett, United States Department of Health and Human Services Region VI Director Marjorie Petty, Travis County Judge Sam Biscoe, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Representative Elliott Naishtat, Representative Dawnna Dukes, Representative Donna Howard, Representative Celia Israel, City Council Member Chris Riley, City Council Member Chris Riley and Central Health Board Chairperson Brenda Coleman-Beattie, among other community partners.
Leading up the March 31 deadline, Central Health and its partners have intensified efforts in the final month of open enrollment to make sure that eligible Travis County residents get connected to coverage.
“Our local effort with Central Health, Insure Central Texas, the Latino Healthcare Forum and others has done an admirable job of using limited local resources to reach our uninsured neighbors. But with less than two weeks of open enrollment remaining, too few have claimed their right to affordable health insurance. More than 9 out of 10 Texans eligible for coverage in the Marketplace have yet to select a plan, although most of them would qualify for a tax credit to help pay premiums,” United States Congressman Lloyd Doggett said.
The final day for open enrollment is March 31, 2014.