Creating unlikely partnerships to improve the health of diverse older adults

Community Catalyst and the Diverse Elders Coalition (DEC) are thrilled to announce the launch of two new partnerships on the ground in New Mexico and Georgia. The unlikely partnerships will facilitate the ongoing education and enrollment of Native American, Bhutanese and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults (age 50+)—and their loved ones—in these two states.

In both states, partner organizations are working collaboratively to inform their communities about the Affordable Care Act’s benefits. While the Health Insurance Marketplace closed on March 31 for most, enrollment continues year round for Native Americans and those eligible for Medicaid. In Georgia, these new partnerships also serve as additional, targeted support for the state legislature and administration to take up the Medicaid expansion.

More than 400,000 Georgians fall into the ‘Medicaid Coverage Gap’ because the state has not yet expanded Medicaid, thus causing many immigrant families, and older adults—who are not yet eligible for Medicare—to likely miss out on health coverage that can protect and support themselves and their families. In the end, the Diverse Elders Coalition and Community Catalyst are hopeful that these new relationships will add new voices to the call for increased coverage for their state’s low income individuals and families.

ABOUT THE PROJECTS AND STATES

In New Mexico, consumer health advocacy group, Health Action New Mexico, will team up with the National Indian Council on Aging to focus on the education and enrollment of Native American elders. While the ACA opens the door to new opportunities for health insurance eligibility, consumers need education on how to successfully navigate the relationship between the ACA and Indian Health Services, tribal health programs, and urban Indian health programs. Across the country, 34% of Native American and Alaskan Native individuals are without health insurance coverage- more than twice that of the American population at-large. But this lack of insurance coverage is only one statistic advocates will consider; the number of individuals and families who are underinsured, or who cannot access the health care that insurance makes available, due to other disparities, often increases health inequities disproportionately.

In Georgia, the consumer health advocacy group, Georgians for a Healthy Future, joins DEC partner, SAGE Atlanta, an affiliate of SAGE and program of The Health Initiative. Georgians for a Healthy Future has been working closely with the state’s LGBT groups over the last year, building a jointly beneficial Medicaid expansion campaign. This new initiative will help the advocates continue to grow the campaign by bringing LGBT elders into the fold with SAGE.

This project also links Georgians for a Healthy Future with the Bhutanese Association of Georgia (BAG) to create opportunities to discuss the need of Medicaid expansion, while highlighting the improved health insurance coverage and benefits in a culturally and linguistically competent manner. Together, the two groups will address how to best support Bhutanese elders and their families (many whom are immigrants) in enrollment and plan identification that meets their complex needs.