Southeastern Health

Coalition aims to help community with healthcare coverage

Something amazing happened three years ago in Robeson County. Southeastern Health teamed up with Enroll America, Robeson Healthcare Corporation, Robeson County DSS and North Carolina Legal Aid to host an inaugural enrollment event at one of our local Methodist churches.

From these humble beginnings the idea of a taskforce to deal with the barrier of under and uninsured in Robeson County was born. Robeson County has long been recognized as having the highest number of uninsured and under-insured in the state of North Carolina.  Though recognized, readily enough, the resources to fight this have been scarce.

Since the first joint Open Enrollment event in 2013, this erstwhile coalition has come together to coordinate efforts throughout the region to marry well-established health fairs and community events with health information on screenings, establishing a medical home, and information on insurance and other available state and federal programs.

Last year, 10 “Joint Task Force” events were coordinated in various churches, legal offices and clinics throughout the county.  The backbone of coalition for Open Enrollment 2 (OE2) was comprised of two health care organizations - Southeastern Health (SeHealth) and Robeson Healthcare Corporation (RHCC), as well as Compassion 4 U Health and Wellness Network which is a congregational wellness program sponsored by Southeastern Health, North Carolina Legal Aid and Enroll America.

A representative from NC Access Care and representatives from other departments within Southeastern Health also supported our efforts. We hosted a total of 10 enrollment events in seven townships with six being in partnership with local churches. We received free daily air time on the local FM radio at the beginning of OE2 - predominantly from November 15th thru January 1, 2015.  Enroll America and Legal Aid partnered on live broadcast interviews. We also received listings of enrollment events in our local newspaper both free and paid. We concentrated our time as a coalition on logistics, attempting to ensure community access to information and assistance by scheduling events throughout the county.  Venues were vetted to ensure that there were enough rooms or areas available for private conversations.  We tried to schedule events twice in targeted communities - once at the beginning of the enrollment period and again at the end. We concentrated on the faith-based community for outreach by contacting the heads of congregational associations and either speaking at their conference meetings or sending information about our project and the Affordable Care Act.

Our second step was an email blast to over 100 pastors of churches advising of the project.  We followed up periodically with information regarding scheduled enrollment events and listings of information that could be placed in church bulletins.  Our faith-based outreach activities were coordinated by Compassion 4 U Health and Wellness Network.

Our coalition met weekly from October thru February to develop, map out a plan of action, identify opportunities, challenges and to report on results.  We completed OE2 with an analysis of the project and opportunities for improvement for OE3.  Enjoying the momentum of effort, with positive outcomes of increasing enrollment numbers from 6,541 to 9,856 from OE1 to OE2; the taskforce has come together again, this time with a more formalized template, including name, mission statement and bigger plans for OE3.

This joint task force has now been dubbed the Affordable Healthcare Coalition of Robeson County.  Our mission statement is to work collectively as representatives and constituents of Robeson County to provide its residents with quality information and awareness of financial access to health care enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. This year we have expanded our members to include the Veteran’s Administration Rural Outreach team and a non-biased Medicare enrollment assistor.  Together, we can address many of the health disparities of our county with a wide range of expertise from this coalition.

The overarching goals of our most recent Health Summit is to ultimately improve the health of Robeson County through decreased health disparities, improved health literacy, and decreased morbidity and mortality.  This would be specifically addressed through the ownership of health insurance and the knowledge of how to use it.  With the population given the tools and the skill to wield their new power in the healthcare marketplace they can achieve improved health.  Additionally health care systems can achieve the "triple aim" of better quality, patient experience and cost. Specifically, we aim to increase the number of insured, and increase outreach to available federal/state programs via increased presence in the community through coordination of health fairs and enrollment events.

Catherine Gaines is a certified physician assistant and team lead for patient navigation for SeHealth. She also leads SeHealth’s participation in the Affordable Healthcare Coalition of Robeson County.

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