Community Health Law Collaborative
Expanding Health Care Coverage
November 15, 2007
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This project aimed to increase health coverage by embedding legal and advocacy assistance within a community health center in upstate New York.
Health center staff members were trained on common legal issues and barriers related to health insurance. The project assisted 260 individuals with health insurance issues, enrolled 23 individuals in public health insurance, and initiated two advocacy projects targeted at systemic barriers to coverage identified by the project: a) implementation of an outreach and training plan to improve county administration of the Refugee Medical Assistance; and b) initiation of a region wide taskforce to improve transportation access for limited English proficient residents. The Empire Justice Center’s project, Community Health Law Collaborative, will embed legal assistance and data collection in two community-based health centers and examine the barriers clients face at both free and federally qualified clinics.
Immigrant populations face several barriers to enrolling in health insurance coverage, including language issues, lack of knowledge of coverage options, illegal excessive verification requirements, and paperwork errors. These barriers not only prevent people from enrolling, but also result in coverage interruptions and delays.More than 30% of people who enroll in health insurance coverage at community, migrant, and homeless health centers do not speak English as their primary language. Consequently, frontline facilitated enrollment workers at health centers often lack the necessary knowledge to best serve this population and are unsure or unclear on eligibility requirements for health benefits.
The Empire Justice Center’s project proposes to embed legal assistance and data collection in two community-based health centers, in order to examine the barriers clients face at both free and federally qualified clinics. It also will provide direct advocacy services at community health centers to help patients obtain health coverage. The project will provide bi-annual training for benefit experts at each health center and will assist them with identifying legal issues and making appropriate referrals to link immigrants to health coverage. Finally, the collaborative will identify changes in eligibility determination practices and policies that would improve access to coverage. The Empire Justice Center will create the “New York State Immigrant Health Insurance Guide for Community Health Centers,” an easy-to-use guide that will contain practical steps for community health center workers on selecting appropriate health insurance options for their patients. The project aims to serve an additional 7,500 immigrants and help connect them with linguistically and culturally appropriate services.