Health Advice



A simple tool has brought health insurance to thousands

Michael Ollove, on

Published in Health & Fitness

Last year, as thousands of people were laid off in the first months of the pandemic, Kentucky’s Medicaid agency followed up with those who applied for unemployment benefits to enroll them in health plans. Eric Friedlander, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said in an interview that outreach contributed to a 130,000-person bump in the state’s Medicaid rolls during the pandemic.

Friedlander called Maryland’s Easy Enrollment “a great model” that he hopes Kentucky also will eventually adopt. And Eberle said Maryland is looking into leveraging unemployment benefit applications for health insurance enrollment as well.

In Massachusetts, which has the lowest rate of residents without health insurance at 3%, officials have been frustrated at the hurdles to getting everyone into health plans, said Audrey Morse Gasteier, chief of policy and strategy at the Massachusetts Health Connector, the state’s health insurance exchange.

“We’ve devoted lots of resources and efforts into marketing and outreach and community engagement into getting people enrolled,” she said. “That remaining 3% is very vexing to us, and we remain committed to reaching that population.”

With that goal in mind, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration pushed a new law that will introduce a program next year like Maryland’s.

The Easy Enrollment concept in Maryland originated in the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission, a panel comprising lawmakers, hospitals and other providers and consumer advocates that the legislature created to recommend measures to improve access to health care in Maryland.


One of the commission goals, said Vinny DeMarco, a member of the commission and president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, was to scoop up the last 6% of Marylanders without health insurance.

And one way to do that, he said, was to leverage residents’ interactions with government bureaucracy, such as tax-collecting agencies.

“The success of the ACA is terrific, but we need to get the rest of the way for health care for all Marylanders and Americans,” he said.


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