« March 2016 Issue

Next Generation of Coverage Advocacy Building in the Bluegrass State

There is little doubt the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been an instrumental tool in connecting millions of uninsured Americans to coverage, some for the very first times in their lives. But there is still important advocacy work to be done on behalf of the millions of Americans residing in states that did not fully embrace the ACA, primarily in the South and Mountain states.

However, one Southern state that bucked the trend and has since become a model success story for coverage expansion under the law is Kentucky. Under former Governor Steve Beshear, Kentucky embraced the ACA by establishing a successful state-based marketplace, Kynect, and expanding Medicaid to close the coverage gap for more than 300,000 Kentuckians. This has led the Bluegrass State to the largest drop in uninsured in the nation — from 20.4 percent to 7.5 percent.

However, the last gubernatorial election ushered in a conservative critic of the ACA, Matt Bevin. In his short time in office, Bevin has already taken steps to dismantle the Kynect marketplace and though he has backed off his campaign promise to “repeal immediately” Medicaid expansion, he has indicated that the state will seek a federal waiver to redesign the program by possibly incorporating premiums and copays.

As a result, Kentucky health advocates have had to pivot to the next generation of ACA advocacy, turning getting covered into staying covered. Emily Beauregard, Executive Director of Kentucky Voices for Health, described their new advocacy as “…just starting to have the political debate that our fellow Southern states have been fighting for years.”

Accessing Community Catalyst’s network of advocates and resources, Kentucky Voices for Health and their partners have been tapping the knowledge of advocates across the nation, as well as working with Community Catalyst’s communications staff to undergo media trainings in response to increased state and national interview requests and exposure.

Additionally, they and their partners in the Keep Kentucky Covered coalition, the Kentucky Equal Justice Center and the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, have been holding events to lift up the stories of everyday people who gained coverage through Kynect. For instance, they recently held a press conference highlighting how both Kynect and the closing of the coverage gap have benefitted Kentucky’s farmers.

“More than anything, storytelling has been our most powerful tool. We've gained new partners and reached new audiences that wouldn't otherwise have been familiar with our work,” said Beauregard. 

Beauregard says she hopes that the ongoing efforts of the advocacy coalition in Kentucky can be helpful to other states. “Regardless of what happens moving forward, I think two lessons are clear: The ACA can work with strong leadership — and we have the data to prove it; and voter engagement must be a core strategy of our work as consumer advocates moving forward.”

Jack Cardinal, Communications Manager

O N   T H E   W I R E

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Follow the new Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation on Twitter at @CCEHI for health system transformation updates!

We partnered with our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Georgetown Center for Children and Families to create a video showing how closing the coverage gap is not only good for working families but is also beneficial to state budgets. Watch it here: “Medicaid Coverage Gap 101”

Congratulations to board member Kavita Patel, MD for receiving the 2016 Cancer Center Innovator Award at the Cancer Center Business Summit.

We’d like to welcome Nancy A. Whitelaw, the co-director/program consultant at Practice Change Fellows/Leaders, to the Community Catalyst board of directors and Eddy Morales, director of the Latino Engagement Fund at the Democratic Alliance, to the Community Catalyst Action Fund board of directors.

Ann Hwang, MD, director of the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, spoke about setting up stronger primary care services in Kaiser Health News. In a Health Affairs blog post, Ann reflected on the Center’s mission and January launch event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Strategic Policy Director Michael Miller talks about the importance of public relations when encouraging Medicaid enrollment among consumers in The Times-Picayune.

Katherine Howitt, associate director of policy, was featured on the Healthcare Finances Management Association website after Louisiana passed legislation to close the coverage gap.

We’re excited to announce that Cindy Mann, formerly the top Medicaid official in the Obama Administration, has joined Community Catalyst and the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation as a strategic advisor. 

We also welcoming Bob Master, MD, founder and former chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Care Alliance, as a senior fellow at the Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation.

Join us in welcoming new staff members: Ilene Weismehl, Database and CRM Manager; Kris Wiitala, Program Associate; Jennifer Lemmerman, associate director, External Affairs; Also, congratulations are in order for Tera Bianchi, who was promoted to Dental Access Program project director.

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