Although the California Health Benefit Exchange is part of daily life for CAHBA professionals and policy wonks throughout the state, the story of health care reform is slow to reach the consciousness of most Californians. For the majority of Californians, the big changes won’t be felt until 2014 when major shifts in eligibility and coverage come into play. One group, the California Primary Care Association, which represents more than 800 clinics and community health centers in the state, is trying to speed up the learning curve.
Positioned as Exchange Navigators
Carmela Castellano-Garcia, president and CEO of CPCA said her organization plans to use the Ambassador program as a model for helping steer patients to the appropriate coverage in the Exchange in 2014. “We think the Ambassador program is in a perfect position to become a patient navigator. We have competency in outreach and enrollment as well as language and cultural sensitivities.
Culturally Appropriate Approach
A big part of the Ambassador Program’s goal is to develop and deliver culturally appropriate lessons in ways patients can best absorb them. For example, Ricky Choi, director of the pediatrics department at Asian Health Services Community Health Center in Oakland, is an Ambassador. Choi said “Our clinic focuses largely on the immigrant Asian population, and a high percentage of this population is without insurance for one reason or another.The expansion of coverage is going to mean a lot for our patients. We estimate that around 5,000 of our patients will get coverage,” Choi said language and cultural literacy will be big factors in insurance coverage expansion in California. “People will be looking for a health center that speaks their language and understands their culture. We’re just one micro-example of how this is all going to unfold. If you expand that to 800 community health centers, you get an idea of the potential.
Model for Other State Clinic Associations
Still in its first year month, the Ambassador program has trained more than 1,000 ambassadors — mostly health care providers and clinic employees — who in turn have educated thousands of patients. Training educators with hands-on sessions, webinars and literature, the Ambassador program is geared to focus on system changes. CPCA developed a toolkit of supportive materials for ambassadors to use in their education efforts. Toolkits include patient-specific fact sheets in several languages, a pocket guide with answers to frequently asked questions, PowerPoint presentations and a video public service announcement. Developed by the California Endowment, the video features two physicians speaking to the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
CPCA presented its Ambassador program and materials to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, part of HHS. The program is being adopted and adapted by primary care associations in other states. Like CPCA, whose clinics provide health care services to about 4 million Californians, primary care associations in other states represent not-for-profit community clinics and health centers often serving low-income, uninsured and underserved patients.
CPCA staffers are working with their counterparts in several states — including Kentucky, Colorado, Texas and Washington state — offering technical and practical assistance in setting up educational efforts based on the Ambassador program.