Expanding Health Care Coverage

Grantee Name

The Research Foundation of SUNY on behalf of the University at Buffalo Department of Family Medicine

Funding Area

Expanding Health Care Coverage

Publication Date

May 2011

Grant Amount


Grant Date:

January 2008 – April 2009


According to the University at Buffalo Department of Family Medicine (UB), the West Side community of Buffalo, New York is predominately poor (60% below 200% of the Federal poverty level), with a large Hispanic population and growing numbers of refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Vietnam, Burma, Ethiopia, Liberia, the former Soviet Union, and Middle Eastern countries.

Many residents are “linguistically isolated,” and 1,775 households (more than 4,000 people) are uninsured. While many of these individuals are likely eligible for public health insurance, they may not know it.

This project aimed to address the cultural and linguistic barriers to enrollment faced by immigrant and refugee populations in Buffalo, New York. Project staff replicated a volunteer facilitated enrollment program, the People’s Access To Healthcare (PATH) program to train health professional students and, in turn, have them assist immigrants and refugees with enrolling in health insurance coverage. PATH students held 20 sessions and reached 100 people. Most of the participants in the sessions already had some form of health insurance, however, and did not need to enroll in Medicaid.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Collaborated with two safety-net providers and two local resettlement organizations to produce a multi-language health insurance enrollment toolkit and implement a student-based, volunteer enrollment model to work alongside existing health plan and Local District of Social Services facilitated enrollers in the region.
  • Created a health insurance enrollment toolkit and translated into five common languages spoken in the West Side immigrant and refugee population.
  • Developed the volunteer facilitated enrollment program, PATH, and created PATH volunteer operating guidelines, a curriculum, and training materials.
  • Trained six medical students on health insurance coverage with a specific focus on immigrant and refugee populations, and identified student leaders to help organize and train future student volunteers in the refugee health program.
  • Evaluated the program through quarterly assessment of selected stakeholders regarding the overall satisfaction with the program, such as effectiveness, cultural sensitivity, and impact on expanding health insurance coverage.

Read the report associated with this grant, “An Assessment of New York Health Foundation 2007 Health Insurance Coverage Grants.”