The REACH Foundation’s current strategic plan is centered on a primary goal of eliminating barriers that prevent people from accessing affordable health coverage and health care. That overarching priority set the stage for one of the foundation’s three focused outcomes areas – Enroll All Eligible in the health insurance marketplace or in other existing public health insurance programs.

In 2017, REACH awarded grants to eight organizations totaling $457,250 to support efforts to use assisters such as navigators, certified application counselors, community health workers and Promotores to educate people about the health insurance marketplace and their coverage options, and assist them with the enrollment process. One of those organizations, the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, was awarded $117,250 to launch the Kansas Assisters Network, a coordinated effort of Johnson and Wyandotte county-based health providers, social services and local government agencies to expand enrollment assistance.

The Kansas Assisters Network (KAN) was an outgrowth of the Community Health Council’s success at recruiting an array of Wyandotte County health and social service organizations to help county residents enroll in coverage plans. Wyandotte County organizations came together in 2016 to launch Enroll Wyandotte, a locally focused marketing and social media campaign with training, tools and other support designed to ensure uninsured people in Wyandotte County knew about their coverage options and had ready access to help.

Coordinated by Molly Moffett at the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County, Enroll Wyandotte offered a model for expanding collaboration across county lines. Moffett worked with Enroll Wyandotte partners and recruited new ones in Johnson County, set up a KAN web site and developed other communications tools to reach more people across the larger geographic area. KAN partners included the Kansas City, Kansas, and Johnson County Public Health Departments, El Centro, Health Partnership Clinic, Shawnee Mission Medical Center, Kansas Association for the Medically Underserved and other organizations.

Despite reduced federal support for the 2017 open enrollment period, 98,238 Kansans selected health coverage plans, representing only a half percent decrease over the prior year.

Moffett said cuts in federal support to states for navigators and assisters and the federal administration’s decision to shorten the 2107 enrollment period helped to fuel collaboration across the two counties and with other state and even metro-area initiatives, such as Cover Kansas and Cover KC. “All of us were on hold for months as government leaders debated Obamacare, which left consumers – and health providers – unsure about their options,” Moffett said. “Thanks to willing partners, we were able to pull off a strong enrollment effort even with these constraints.”

The REACH grant and support from other area foundations helped KAN put forth a solid campaign. Cover KC TV commercials that aired locally included some of the KAN partners; assisters were added in new locations; promotional mailers went to consumers through utility bills; faith community leaders stepped up to promote enrollment within their congregations; and an active and targeted social media campaign encouraged people to enroll. In addition, a separate REACH grant of $10,000 to the national nonprofit Young Invincibles supported access to a Get Covered Connector tool that offered an appointment scheduling platform and data collection system for tracking appointments and follow-up. Moffett said that even with the public’s uncertainty, limited financial resources and the time constraints, the partners’ coordinated efforts paid off – Kansas saw 98,238 enrollees through the marketplace, only a slight decrease over the 98,780 from the prior year.