Reaching those without insurance will take more precise outreach, experts say

    As states get ready for open enrollment of the Affordable Care Act marketplaces in November, the Kaiser Family Foundation has issued a snapshot of the uninsured at the beginning of 2015.

    The report includes the percentage of people who are eligible for Medicaid but not covered.

    The numbers aren’t great for Pennsylvania.

    Early this year, about 48 percent of the commonwealth’s uninsured residents were eligible for Medicaid. The national average was 27 percent.

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    “But that makes sense, given that Pennsylvania implement its [Medicaid] expansion a little later than other states, so it may still have folks to reach,” said Rachel Garfield, an author on the data note from Kaiser Family Foundation.

    Kait Gillis, a spokeswoman with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, said 460,000 residents have signed on to Medicaid since Gov. Tom Wolf expanded the program. The full expansion was in April.

    The state’s outreach includes partnerships with faith-based organizations and information tables at supermarkets and pharmacies, she said.

    Kaiser’s estimate of the uninsured eligible for Medicaid was 36 percent for New Jersey, and 35 percent for Delaware.

    Jim Grant, a spokesman for the Health Insurance Marketplace in Delaware, said it makes most sense to compare his state’s progress with an average for states that have expanded their Medicaid programs. That moves the U.S. average to 40 percent, from 27.

    Using that benchmark, Delaware’s percent of uninsured people who could be eligible for Medicaid — 35 percent — is well below the national average.

    Grant saids Delaware has worked to make Medicaid easily accessible for people, but there will always be some residents who for myriad personal reasons — including “stigma” — don’t want the benefit even though they qualify for it.

    The Kaiser report also includes estimates of the percentage of each state’s uninsured who would qualify for financial assistance if they purchased private insurance through the ACA marketplaces.

    Getting people covered in year three of open enrollment is going to be harder, Grant said.

    “We are going to be trying to reach a pool of individuals that is smaller and harder to reach. Likely, individuals who might have decided the last two years that they can’t afford the coverage, or they don’t want to take the coverage, or they might not be aware of the coverage,” Grant said.

    In past years, many states launched broad marketing campaigns to educate residents about insurance options and the tax credits available.

    This year, Delaware will do more targeted outreach to towns with high rates of uninsured people, Grant said.

    The state will also remind people that the penalty for not having insurance increases again in 2016.

    Taunya English’s reporting on the Affordable Care Act is a partnership between WHYY, the Kaiser Health News and National Public Radio.

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