Updated: A Check on Outreach and Enrollment in the Tar Heel State

photo-22Never mind software glitches, there is plenty of optimism about outreach and enrollment at Piedmont Health Services in Carrboro, NC, and patients are signing up. Here is a photo of the very first one at Piedmont that enrolled in the Health Insurance Marketplace at their site in Moncure. “He was just as excited as I was,” said Piedmont staffer Karen Nelson Frazier. ”He never had a e-mail account until we set it up as we began the process of opening up the Marketplace website.” Nelson estimates that at least 15 patients have set up an account, with many more making appointments to find out more.

The health center is working hard to help the public understand how the law affects them and what options are available. Piedmont Health, which operates seven Community Health Centers and a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly in central North Carolina, has launched outreach and enrollment in the following ways:

  • Mailing more than 9,000 letters to currently uninsured patients offering appointments to learn about their options.
  • Meeting with multiple faith-based communities to conduct public education sessions.
  • Coordinating with the other community groups, such as UNC Healthcare, Orange County DSS and Health Department, Legal Aid and local public libraries to get information to as many people as possible.

“We take our responsibility to educate the public seriously,” said Brian Toomey, Piedmont Health Chief Executive Officer. “We want to give people the help they need to make this crucial decision. What we are doing is cutting through the noise that has surrounded this issue and making sure people get the facts. All changes are going to create anxiety. People need to understand the new law. Our job is to make sure that everybody is informed about his or her options.”

According to Toomey and Piedmont Health’s Chief Financial Officer Lydia Mason, who is heading up the training effort, Piedmont has designated about 50 staff members to be outreach and enrollment coordinators. The training is done by Health and Human Services in webinars and takes about five hours. It is typically spread out over two days.  The coordinators have to pass several exams to become certified, Mason said. She said the training emphasizes various safeguards, including making sure that the coordinators are objective and do not steer patients to any particular plan, and that patient information is kept private in accordance with federal law.

The next phase will be outreach in the faith community, local chambers of commerce, and community organizations.  Piedmont has longstanding contacts with all of these groups and has programs in which health care services are offered at discounted rates to certain chamber of commerce members.  The health center will soon begin outreach designed specifically to educate these groups about the ACA for their members. On day one of enrollment, despite computer glitches, the health center reported a lot of excitement and interest. Health center staff have been setting up appointments with patients for the coming weeks and reassuring people that there is plenty of time to enroll.

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