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Central Health Sees 69 Percent Enrollment Increase in Health Care Coverage Program for Low-Income Travis County Residents

Local musicians say having insurance gives them peace of mind; allows them to focus on their crafts

(Austin) – Despite political uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Central Health is continuing its efforts to help low-income and uninsured Travis County residents enroll in health care coverage.

People like Ghislaine Jean, an award-winning Austin musician who recently enrolled in health insurance coverage through the ACA thanks to Central Health’s Premium Assistance Program, which helps families like Jean’s pay their monthly Health Insurance Marketplace premiums after their tax credit has been applied. Central Health’s Premium Assistance Program has seen a 69 percent enrollment increase from 2016.

This year, the Central Health Board of Managers voted to expand premium assistance to low-income uninsured families who are patients at CommUnityCare and other safety net clinics in Travis County.

“We are excited Central Health was able to include more families in its Premium Assistance Program,” said Kit Abney Spelce, Central Health Senior Director of Eligibility Services. “This year we will provide assistance to more than 1,500 individuals.”

Central Health Premium Assistance Program
The Premium Assistance Program is available to individuals and families who meet the income requirements of Central Health’s Medical Access Program (MAP), and are also eligible for tax credits through the Health Insurance Marketplace (part of the Affordable Care Act, or ACA). Central Health pays premium balances for people who qualify directly to Sendero Health Plans – Central Health’s partner in the Premium Assistance Program.

The program, created in 2014, also applies to musicians enrolled with the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), as well as the SIMS Foundation, which offers mental health services at a significantly reduced rate to support Austin’s creative community.

Health Coverage for Musicians
Central Health partnered with HAAM and SIMS to help enroll musicians in the Premium Assistance Program. Both HAAM and SIMS conducted outreach for the third consecutive year, emphasizing that the ACA hasn’t gone away, and the importance of enrolling in health insurance.

By the Numbers
In 2016, a total of 944 individuals enrolled in insurance coverage through the Premium Assistance Program. At the conclusion of the 2017 Open Enrollment Period, 1,618 individuals had enrolled – a 69 percent increase.

“Hundreds of people here in Travis County have health insurance for the first time in their lives because of the Premium Assistance Program,” said Michelle Tijerina, Director of Community Outreach at Central Health. “The stories we hear from many of these people are moving – they’re so grateful to have peace of mind.”

Saving Money for Taxpayers
In 2016 Central Health paid just over $300,000 in premium assistance to receive millions of dollars in health care services for low-income Travis County residents. “By subsidizing health insurance premiums for people eligible for ACA, Central Health is leveraging federal funds to pay for millions of dollars in health care services here in our community,” said Dr. Charles Bell, Central Health Board of Managers. “This is a great value for our entire community.”

Peace of Mind
“[The Premium Assistance Program] has been wonderful for us,” said enrollee Ghislaine Jean. “It just eases my mind knowing that there is support, especially for artists like me. Knowing my family has health insurance allows me to focus on my work. I know many other artists who feel the same way.”

Ghislaine goes by the stage name Qi Dada in her local hip hop group Riders Against the Storm. She and her husband and band mate, Jonathan Mahoney (stage name Chaka) were enrolled in the Premium Assistance Program in 2016, and reenrolled for 2017.