Expanding Health Care Coverage

Grantee Name

Empire Justice Center

Funding Area

Expanding Health Care Coverage

Publication Date

October 2017

Grant Amount

2013 ($220,000) 2014 ($189,112) 2015 ($220,000)

Grant Date:

2013–2016

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The passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 offered a new, game-changing opportunity for NYSHealth to have a much larger impact, as more than a million New Yorkers could gain health care coverage.

As the first open enrollment period under the ACA approached in 2013, NYSHealth focused on helping as many New Yorkers as possible sign up for health insurance coverage. Though the State took the lead in enrolling people in health insurance on the NY State of Health Marketplace, the State’s official health insurance plan exchange, NYSHealth saw additional opportunities for progress. To complement the State’s enrollment strategy, NYSHealth awarded a grant to the Empire Justice Center (EJC) to develop and administer the Ambassadors for Coverage program. This program trained community-based organizations throughout the State to provide an on-the-ground presence in communities where they could encourage health insurance enrollment. Separate from the direct enrollment activities of the State’s Navigators and Certified Application Counselors, the Ambassadors focused on raising awareness of health insurance eligibility within hard-to-reach communities and populations, and then referred individuals to organizations where they could receive enrollment assistance.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Engaged and deployed 22 Ambassador organizations across the State—both leading up to and during open enrollment periods—to conduct community outreach;
  • Employed an effective range of culturally and linguistically appropriate approaches to inform New Yorkers about new or existing insurance options and how to get enrollment assistance;
  • Conducted a range of consumer outreach activities, including hosting tables at community fairs, events, and pharmacies; creating and distributing materials to local businesses and at community gathering spaces; and using social and traditional media;
  • Created an online portal for posting training materials, webinars, referral information, and other outreach resources; and
  • Provided one-on-one technical assistance, held in-person trainings, and hosted and attended regional enrollment meetings in tandem with the Marketplace.

This program provided an essential link between consumers and enrollment assistors. As a result of the program’s success during its first year of operations, NYSHealth renewed its grant to EJC in 2014 and 2015 to continue the program. Over the course of the three grant phases, the program had a large impact on New York State: nearly 117,000 individuals were reached directly and nearly 3.5 million people were reached through media (radio, newspapers, and social media). Ultimately, these efforts aided in the successful enrollment of 2.8 million New Yorkers in health insurance through 2016 and beyond.

The program also garnered national attention. EJC was invited to present on the Ambassadors for Coverage program at two national conferences: Enroll America’s 2014 National Conference and the 2015 World Health Congress Business Exchange Summit. The Ambassadors were lauded as “unsung heroes” in a 2014 HuffPost article for their tireless work to raise awareness about the ACA, and the program was highlighted in Enroll America’s report, “State of Enrollment: Lessons Learned from Connecting America to Coverage 2013–2014.”

The Ambassadors for Coverage model could be used again to inform communities about changes in insurance coverage, eligibility, or other rules. Importantly, it is an easy, inexpensive, and effective method to raise awareness of any type of public program or benefit within communities, especially among vulnerable populations.

Read the full report.

Co-Funding and Additional Funds Leveraged: N/A