UMass Medical School training community organizations to help consumers understand and use health insurance

May 26, 2016

UMass Medical School is training community organizations in an effort to improve consumer understanding of health insurance and increase self-sufficiency. The organizations are participating in  the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) Foundation’s Connecting Consumers with Care grant program.

The Massachusetts Area Health Education Center (MassAHEC) Network, part of the Center for Health Policy and Research within UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, hosted a Learning Community event May 19 focused on promoting health insurance literacy. MassAHEC provides individual technical assistance and holds two in-person learning programs annually as well as online forums to share resources and best practices.  The training on May 19 was provided by Joan Winchester and Rebecca Chandler of the MAXIMUS Center for Health Literacy, which the Foundation and MassAHEC secured for this session and content area for grantees. 

“Organizations learn how to develop health literacy workshops and plain-language materials to make health insurance something that isn’t scary,” said Beth Baker, director of Health Access & Wellness Services at Boston Public Health Commission, one of 15 organizations in the current grant cycle.

The Learning Community is “teaching the teacher,” said Karen Baumbach, executive director of Ecu-Health Care in North Adams, another grantee. She said the learning programs enable organizations to instruct consumers in the ways to use their health insurance and communicate with their physician’s office.

“These (sessions) and access to materials on the website is extremely helpful,” she said.

“The opportunity to bounce ideas off people and share materials is invaluable,” Baker said. She said the Learning Community provides information from experts in the field and peers.

“It’s really important to bring together the organizations … so they can better do their work,” said Jennifer Lee, senior program officer at the BCBSMA Foundation.

The grant program has been funded by the BCBSMA Foundation since 2001 and supports health centers, public agencies and community organizations that help consumers enroll in subsidized health insurance to increase access to health care and better health, said Debi Lang, MS, program manager for training and evaluation at MassAHEC and technical assistance lead for the grant.

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