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Improving access to healthcare for Utah families

Posted at 11:18 AM, Aug 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-12 13:18:22-04

Intermountain Healthcare and several community organizations are collaborating to address the high number of uninsured children, families, and individuals in Utah.

The focus of this community collaboration is to increase the number of families and individuals with health insurance coverage throughout the state and improve overall access to quality health care. The coalition includes government leaders, local nonprofit organizations, school districts, and tribal organizations.

An example is the Utah Health Policy Project and their efforts in providing health coverage for uninsured families. The Utah Health Policy Project utilizes health access assisters as community and family advocates.

Diego, who is in Utah on a student visa from Chile, was trying hard to find a way to get health insurance coverage for his kids, wife and himself. “I have two babies. It is really hard to pay those health bills,” he said.

That is where Dajhana Sudbury, a health access assister with Utah Health Policy Project, stepped in to help him out. They spent several weeks working through the process. Sudbury and Diego even worked together on Christmas Eve to complete the process.

“I just put my hand on her shoulder and said, ‘you have all my information. I trust you,’” Diego said about Sudbury and her help. “This has been a big benefit for me and my family.”

“He expressed his fears and his concerns with me. He just wanted to take care of his kids and family,” said Sudbury.

Health access assisters, like Sudbury, have become crucial to navigating health insurance, especially for families experiencing cultural or systemic financial barriers.

Health access assisters live in the community that they work and help in and come from diverse backgrounds. They typically speak numerous languages. Assisters are, more importantly, advocates for their communities and residents to break down the barriers to get the appropriate insurance needed for vital health screenings and social needs.

Utah Health Policy Project has been working to advance sustainable healthcare solutions for underserved Utahns through improved access, education, and public policy. Compared to most states, Utah has many eligible children who do not have healthcare coverage, especially when evaluating minority populations.

Intermountain, along with other Utah healthcare systems, payers and community partners are collaborating in a coordinated effort to support health access assisters, and public outreach messaging.

“Intermountain is proud to be part of collaborative efforts to improve healthcare enrollment and access in our communities,” said Lisa Nichols, assistant vice president of Community Health at Intermountain.

“For nearly a decade, health access assisters have played a vital role in helping underserved Utahns get insured, stay insured and access healthcare services,” said Matt Slonaker, executive director for Utah Health Policy Project. “This mission-driven workforce is skilled at working with our most vulnerable neighbors to explain complicated programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, and Marketplace Insurance. They pride themselves on meeting clients where they are, whether at a clinic, a school, a jail or prison.”

“Intermountain’s collaboration represents what I hope could be a game-changer in reducing Utah’s uninsured rate,” Slonaker added.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government extended the open enrollment period for plans available on the marketplace through the Affordable Care Act. Additional subsidies are available now making plans deeply affordable to Utahns. The open enrollment period is currently set to close on August 15.

Families can call #211 for assistance and Utah Health Policy Project information can be found at healthpolicyproject.org.