Outreach workers to raise health insurance awareness

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(Host) A public-private partnership has been created to encourage Vermonters who don’t have health insurance to sign up for one of the state’s subsidized programs.

As part of the plan, outreach workers will be sent to communities throughout the state to help uninsured Vermonters better understand how the state programs work.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) It’s estimated that roughly 61,000 Vermonters currently don’t have any health insurance coverage. This represents about 10% of the state’s adult population.

Beginning this fall, a new state program known as Catamount Health, will offer coverage to individuals who have incomes that are too high to be eligible for either Medicaid or the Vermont Health Access Program.

The goal of this new public private partnership is to spread the word about all of the state’s health care programs. Studies indicate that half of all uninsured Vermonters actually qualify for VHAP or Medicaid but many don’t enroll because they don’t think they’re eligible.

Susan Besio is the director of health care reform for the state of Vermont:

(Besio) “The folks that we are looking to encourage to get insurance – primarily people who find themselves in a situation where they can’t afford it and or think that they don’t need it – this is an important thing to have in your life for both health and financial reasons and also because it’s really good for the state as a whole for all of our health acre costs and quality.”

(Kinzel) Steve Maier is the chairman of the House Health Care committee. He says reform efforts have floundered in other states because these programs didn’t include comprehensive outreach efforts:

(Maier) “One of the things that became very clear to us as we looked around at other states that have done or have tried to do work in health care reform is that you’re not setting yourself up for success if you just do the same old things about advertising and marketing and enrolling people in your new health acre reform product. We looked at Maine. We looked at other states and it became clear to us that business as usual was not going to do it.”

(Kinzel) Peter Stering is the executive director of the partnership. He thinks the outreach plan is the first step in a larger health care reform effort.

(Sterling) “We feel that with our field workers and with the state’s effort at getting people enrolled we can make Catamount Health a widely successful program. And that will set the base for future reform in upcoming legislative sessions. Eventually our goal is to get everyone in Vermont health care that they can afford.”

(Kinzel) The outreach effort will be funded initially with $150,000 in grants from several non-profit foundations.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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