Signing Up Tennesseans ‘Suspicious’ Of Insurance Exchange: There’s A Grant For That

Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Services in Nashville is Middle Tennessee's largest single recipient of grant money to enroll patients into the insurance exchange. The funding is based on how many uninsured patients a clinic treats each year. Credit: MWCHC

Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Services in Nashville is Middle Tennessee’s largest single recipient of grant money to enroll patients into the insurance exchange. The funding is based on how many uninsured patients a clinic treats each year. Credit: MWCHC

Clinics around Tennessee are divvying up more than $3 million from the federal government to recruit people into the new health insurance exchange. One priority is signing up those who are young and healthy.

United Neighborhood Health Services – which operates clinics around Middle Tennessee – sees 17,000 uninsured patients a year. They won’t need much convincing to sign up for a federally-subsidized health plan, says CEO Mary Bufwack. But those who haven’t needed medical care might not seek out a plan on the exchange.

“People are very suspicious,” Bufwack says. “There is even an element of disbelief in people that this really means me.”

The federal money pays for a total of 69 outreach workers statewide. Bufwack says she has already hired her four insurance counselors who will be dispatched to technical colleges, health fairs and church meetings.

Nashville’s Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Center and University Community Health Services also received grants. So did Mercy Health Services of Franklin. (Click to see a list of all 25 statewide)

The process takes at least 45 minutes per case. Each worker is expected to enroll an average of a thousand people by April 15th, when the enrollment window closes.

The insurance exchange opens October 1st, but the outreach hasn’t started yet – in part – because the state hasn’t designated which plans will be offered.

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