Role in 2006 State Health Reform
Massachusetts health centers played a critical role in the implementation of Chapter 58: educating consumers about the new law; promoting the value of health insurance; and enrolling thousands of residents into the state's expanded Medicaid program and newly developed subsidized insurance products.
On the whole, these efforts involved a two-pronged strategy: in-reach to existing patients who qualified for expanded benefits under Medicaid or one of the new subsidized insurance plans; and outreach to community residents who were newly eligible for health coverage and not regular users of health center services.
Health centers in Massachusetts quickly gained recognition as the state's premier experts in outreach and enrollment. As a result, they attracted thousands of patients from private physician offices, whose staffs lacked in-depth knowledge of the new law. This meant that on top of the outreach support they were providing to their patients, they also became destination points for residents in need of enrollment assistance, many of whom continued to use their existing providers.
Even in Massachusetts, where more than 98 percent of state residents have some form of health coverage, health centers continue to apply significant resources to not only helping patients navigate our complex health system, but also in keeping them enrolled in coverage and engaged in primary care.
Moving forward in national reform
The health centers in Massachusetts are currently relying on the strategies they employed in 2006 to help them prepare and move forward today in reaching residents eligible for new coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The communications model established among frontline health center workers, the League, and state policymakers during implementation of the Massachusetts health reform law will go far in ensuring the success of federal reform efforts now taking place.
Equally important, is the widespread acknowledgement that community-based, multilingual outreach and enrollment strategies have been a major factor in helping the state achieve - and preserve - unprecedented rates of health coverage for its residents.
As Massachusetts community health centers work to expand coverage under the Affordable Care Act for their patients, they will continue to underscore the important issues of health access and affordability that endure in their communities despite broad-based reforms.