Pittsfield- With the looming deadlines for health coverage on the horizon, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) and State Representatives Daniel E. Bosley (D-North Adams) and Christopher N. Speranzo (D- Pittsfield) are pleased to announce three MassHealth outreach grants which have been awarded by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). Among the recipients are Pittsfield’s Berkshire Medical Center ($55,000), North Adam’s Ecu-Health Care ($50,000) and Worthington’s Hilltown Community Health Centers, Inc ($55,000).
“These funds are coming at a time when health care enrollment volume is reaching a critical mass. Our community-based enrollment centers are being inundated with folks who want to do the right thing by educating themselves and complying with the new law. This funding will help our enrollment centers carry-out the monumental task of enrolling the thousands of uninsured residents in Berkshire and Franklin Counties.”
The Commonwealth’s Fiscal Year 2008 operating budget contains a $3.5 million appropriation for outreach and enrollment activities related to health care reform, an increase of $3 million from FY 2007 which was spearheaded by the Legislature. To date, the Office of Medicaid has awarded $2.4 million to community-based organizations to identify, educate and enroll individuals who are eligible for MassHealth, Commonwealth Care and Commonwealth Choice health care plans.
The Office of Medicaid, in partnership with the Commonwealth Connector Authority, is currently developing a second Request for Response (RFR) for the remaining $1.1 million. This second round of funding will seek proposals from qualified private and non-profit organizations interested in coordinating a network of groups performing outreach and enrollment activities. EOHHS expects to issue this second RFR later this month.
“Outreach is critical right now. The deadline to enroll in a health plan is quickly approaching with so many people left to enroll and so many people filled with questions. Ecu-health care has been an incredible asset in reaching out and guiding those people through the process and through their options,” said Bosley.
Ecu-Health Care is a non-profit organization in North Adams that has been leading the community in enrolling uninsured residents into health care plans. Grateful for the outreach and enrollment grant, Executive Director Chip Joffe-Halpern said, “Ecu-Health Care is thrilled to partner with the state to help implement this most significant health care endeavor.”
“This funding for Berkshire Medical Center will help to continue the tremendous work that Berkshire County has done to enroll those uninsured and in need of health care,” said Speranzo.
Edward Perlak, Vice President of Hillcrest Campus at Berkshire Medical Center who also oversees Advocacy for Access, stated “Berkshire Health Systems has a long tradition of outreach to the community in the area of helping our residents and their families to access health coverage and healthcare. This grant will help us to continue that effort, and we are grateful for the ongoing support we receive in our endeavors from the Berkshire legislative delegation.”
Today’s announcement marks the conclusion of a highly competitive application and evaluation process. Forty-five organizations, including hospitals and community health centers from across the state will receive grants in amounts ranging from $26,000 to $55,000. A total of 87 organizations applied for funding.
As the December 31st deadline for coverage draws near, the western Massachusetts legislative delegation has been working with outreach specialists at the Commonwealth Connector to plan an outreach and enrollment event in Pittsfield for the morning of Saturday, December 8th. Please look out for additional details as location and time are confirmed.