Local Health Initiative Works to Close Health Insurance Gap
Jul 25, 2011 | 2061 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TRI-COUNTY AREA – Demographic data show that rural Southwest Colorado has some of the highest rates of uninsured children not only in Colorado, but also in the nation. Colorado ranks 44th among states for the percentage of uninsured children (age birth to 17) and 51st for the percentage of uninsured children living at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. According to the Colorado Health Institute, 39 percent of children in San Miguel County, 21 percent of children in Ouray County and 29 percent of children in Montrose County are eligible for but not enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Plan (CHP+). It is projected that 470 children, residing in Ouray, San Miguel and West Montrose counties, are eligible but not insured.

Since 2008, the Local Health Initiative, a program of the Tri-County Health Network, has been working on closing this health insurance gap. According to Gary Steinbach, LHI Administrator, “Our 2011 goal is to reduce the number of uninsured children by 50 percent or 235 of the 470 eligible children. The strategy for closing this gap is through our enrollment Navigators who provide grass roots community outreach, enrollment activities and application assistance.” Steinbach concluded, “In 2010, our Navigators enrolled 313 residents and in the first six months of 2011, 188 previously uninsured individuals have been insured.”

Under the LHI’s Insurance Enrollment Program, there are five enrollment Navigators presently serving the Network’s fours county area. Navigators are trained and certified by the State of Colorado as Certified Enrollment Assistants and have established five Certified Entitlement Enrollment Assistance Sites throughout the Network’s service area. Navigators include Carol Schutter serving Ridgway/Ouray; Beth Kuperman, Telluride; Tammie Tabor, Norwood; Chris Daniels, Naturita/Nucla; and Ruben Melgosa, Delta/Montrose.

According to Steinbach, the Insurance Enrollment Program leverages two fundamental elements to find, process, enroll and re-enroll residents efficiently and effectively. First, the “trusted hand” approach is utilized where active members of the community —Navigators— participate in enrollment outreach, identification and enrollment assistance. The second element is a web-based electronic enrollment tracking system, used by Navigators to track Medicaid and CHP+ applications and electronically confirm enrollment status.

Allen Gerstle, director of San Miguel and Ouray County Social Services Departments, has worked with LHI Navigators since 2008 and observes that, “Navigators are able to conduct community outreach and application assistance services that are not possible for county staff members to do. Working together, we have a complimentary relationship with Navigators that is increasing the number of enrollments, as well as developing an improved enrollment system.”

Individuals with questions about entitlement health insurance programs and Navigator referral can call Gary Steinbach at 970-946-0016 or contact him at gary@telluridefoundation.org.

The LHI Insurance Enrollment Program is made possible through funding provided by the Colorado Health Foundation, Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, MORE Grant and the Telluride Foundation.

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