Community Foundations Join Forces to Support Health Safety-Net Transformation

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Collaborative funding will amplify the impact of foundation resources granted to research and design an enrollment system for Montgomery Cares, the health safety-net program that serves Montgomery County residents who are not eligible for state or federal health coverage.

In an exceptional display of pro-active funding, a cohort of foundations that fund in Montgomery County has joined forces to support the design and implementation of an enrollment system for Montgomery Cares—the program that provides access to health care for 30,000 low-income Montgomery County residents who are not eligible for state or federal health coverage.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is transforming health care across the nation. These changes provide a tremendous opportunity to align county-funded health access programs like Montgomery Cares with federal and state health reform initiatives that promote efficient and effective health care systems.

With leadership from the Healthcare Initiative Foundation (HIF) a group of funders including The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, the Consumer Health Foundation, Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States, and the Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation, as well as the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, has come together to form the Montgomery County Funder Collaborative, an informal body that will enable foundations to amplify their impact by jointly funding projects. The group collaborates to consider the merits of a proposed project, and each participating foundation can choose to provide a small grant to support the project.

The first project to be funded through this collaborative approach is the design of a comprehensive enrollment system for Montgomery Cares.

Founded in 2005, Montgomery Cares is a public-private partnership composed of 12 independent primary care clinics, five hospitals, the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Primary Care Coalition (PCC). Long before the expansion of Medicaid or launch of insurance marketplaces created under the ACA, Montgomery County provided health care access for low-income, uninsured residents through Montgomery Cares.

While the ACA has extended access to health care to many, 60,000 low-income Montgomery County residents are ineligible to participate in Medicaid or the subsidized health plans offered through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange and will continue to rely on Montgomery Cares for much needed health services.

Over the past several years the PCC and its partners have implemented significant steps to strengthen the network of safety-net clinics. “Developing a comprehensive enrollment system for Montgomery Cares is the next vital step in harmonizing Montgomery Cares with state and federal initiatives and transforming Montgomery Cares to function more effectively in this changing environment,” said Steve Galen, President and CEO of the Primary Care Coalition.

Currently, eligibility screening for Montgomery Cares is performed at each of the participating clinics, and there is no consistent process for screening individuals to determine if they are eligible for Medicaid or Qualified Health Plans now available through the Maryland Health Connection. With the $35,000 in joint funding from the foundation community, the Montgomery Cares partners will work together to explore different enrollment models and research the best design for a Montgomery Cares enrollment system. Once implemented the enrollment system will integrate with eligibility screening and enrollment for federal, state, and local health and social service programs to streamline the process. The ultimate goal is to improve consumer experiences and ensure that everyone receives the most appropriate health benefit for his/her situation.

“MCDHHS along with PCC, the participating clinics and our Foundation partners has been leading an effort to map the next enhancement of Montgomery Cares,” said Uma Ahluwalia, director of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. “These changes are aimed at being responsive to new ACA requirements and current best practices. As a key funder, county government has a significant stake in a favorable outcome of this redesign.”

The partner organizations involved in Montgomery Cares are committed to providing a strong and viable safety-net health system in the community; a system capable of serving the uninsured and offering health care to newly insured residents regardless of their income, race, ethnicity, or country of origin.

Over the years, the local funding community has made significant investments in the Montgomery County safety-net. “Just like our grantees, we as funders have a far greater impact collectively than independently. We see this type of collaboration as the first of many as we explore opportunities for supporting this transformative work and continue to invest in high-quality, comprehensive, and equitable health care for Montgomery County residents,” said Crystal Townsend, President of the Healthcare Initiative Foundation.

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The Healthcare Initiative Foundation is a 501(c) (3) private foundation that supports organizations that offer solutions to improve the quality and delivery of healthcare for residents of Montgomery County, Maryland. We envision a Montgomery County whose residents are served by a high-quality, comprehensive, cost-effective and sustainable healthcare system.

The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation is committed to building a stronger community for residents of the Washington, DC area through support of programs in arts and humanities, community services, education, health and the environment.

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield is a not-for-profit, non-stock health services company which, through its affiliates and subsidiaries, offers a comprehensive portfolio of products and administrative services to individuals and groups in Maryland, the District of Columbia and portions of northern Virginia.

The Consumer Health Foundation envisions a region and a nation in which all people have an equal opportunity to live a healthy and dignified life, regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, education, or income. CHF’s mission is to advocate for health and racial equity through programs and investments that advance the health and well-being of low-income communities and communities of color in the District of Columbia, parts of suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia.

Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States provides high-quality, affordable health care services, but also aims to improve the overall health of the community with financial, material, and human resource investments to address health care issues and eliminate health inequities in communities across the Mid-Atlantic region.

The Eugene and Agnes Meyer Foundation invests in leaders and organizations that make lasting improvements in the lives of low-income people in the Washington, DC metropolitan region. Recognizing that no funder can single-handedly address community issues, the Meyer foundation is committed to working with other grant makers and actively participates in collaborative grant making in each program area.

Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services is the largest department in the Montgomery County government and is responsible for public health and human services that help address the needs of the community’s most vulnerable children, adults and seniors. The Department has more than 120 programs including Montgomery Cares.

The Primary Care Coalition of Montgomery County is making health care happen. PCC works with clinics, hospitals, health care providers, and other community partners to coordinate health services for low-income, uninsured residents of Montgomery County, Maryland and the National Capital Area. Our vision is a community in which all residents will have the opportunity to live healthy lives. PCC administers Montgomery Cares under a contract with the Department of Health and Human Services. PCC is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization.

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