The Checkup
3:59 pm
Tue November 19, 2013

The Affordable Care Act and Minority Outreach: Is the Word Getting Out?

Credit Credit: United Workers / flickr / Creative Commons

In order to get a better understanding of how Maryland is reaching out to minority populations around the state, we hear from several people engaged in this issue, including Congressman Elijah Cummings and outreach leaders on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, in Western Maryland and in Baltimore City.

We are now in our seventh week of open enrollment in Maryland and according to the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange's most recent report, while more than 53,000 people have created accounts on Maryland Health Connection's website, the total number of people enrolled in health insurance plans is just under 1,800 (1,743 to be exact.)

Among those uninsured in Maryland and eligible for coverage, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 38 percent are African-American and 12 percent are Hispanic. 

In today's episode of The Checkup, we take a look at minority enrollment and minority outreach in Maryland, and ask various people around the state if the word is getting out about the exchange. Are minorities are getting the message? And what are the particular challenges in conducting outreach?

Our guests

Elijah Cummings is the U.S. Representative for Maryland's 7th congressional district, which includes portions of Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Howard County. Congressman Cummings hosted an Affordable Care Act symposium in September and has worked to address health disparities in communities of color. He tells Sheilah Kast how the ACA can address some of the disparities, including offering preventive health screenings and expanded dental coverage for children. 

Catalina Rodriguez is a language access coordinator and hispanic affairs liaison for the Baltimore City Hispanic Commission. Last month the Commission hosted a presentation on the ACA and Baltimore's Hispanic Community. On the first Monday of every month, the Commission holds Ventanillas de Salud or "healthy windows" at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church in Baltimore. The Commission also works with Health Care Access Maryland, to disseminate exchange-related information to residents.

Katherine “Kat” Gunby is Program Coordinator for the Lower Shore Health Insurance Assistance Program, a program of the Worcester County Health Department. It serves Somerset, Worcester and Wicomico counties. Gunby and her staff conduct outreach events at various locations on the Lower Shore. You can find a list of November events here.

Christine Hall is the Executive Director for Healthy Howard, Inc. Like the Lower Shore Health Insurance Assistance Program, Healthy Howard, Inc. is also a Maryland Health Benefit Exchange Connector Entity. Hall oversees outreach and education in Western Maryland Counties, and says connecting with leaders in Asian, Hispanic and African-American communities has been an effective way to engage hard-to-reach populations.

More on this topic

In October, WYPR News producer Bret Jaspers reported on how the ACA may affect undocumented immigrants.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange is preparing a launch of a Spanish language website, which will occur in two phases. The first phase is scheduled to roll-out this week. More on this plan is on page 5 of this report. 

Our series ‘The Checkup: How Health Care Is Changing in Maryland’ is made possible by grants from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the Baltimore Association of Health Underwriters, and HealthCare Access Maryland.