National League of Cities Pushing Medicaid Enrollment With Atlantic's Help

Ever since the ACA rollout, the healthcare field has been teeming with players looking to boost enrollment. The National League of Cities is one such group, with a twist: It’s gunning to raise enrollment in Medicaid and in CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. In eight strikingly diverse cities around the country, the National League of Cities (NLC) is giving away up to $260,000 to implement the business plans they’ve drafted as part of this three-year journey.

See, this whole thing first started out as the NLC convening regional leadership academies to help city leaders craft data-driven health benefits outreach campaigns. Delegates from twenty-three NLC member cities attended said academies, and twelve of those were selected to receive small planning grants to help them develop business plans for putting into place their outreach campaigns. Eight of the twelve business plans went on to receive these hefty implementation grants just last week.

The wellspring source of this three-year NLC program turns out to be Atlantic Philanthropies, who, in 2012, fronted the $3.25 million it’s taken to pull the program off. It’s not all that surprising, as the foundation prepares to close up shop, that it would do something big and innovative to make a big, perhaps final push for health care advocacy. What is surprising is the cities that received the funding.

Given that this gift deals with expanding health coverage, which has turned out to be a polarizing red state/blue state issue, you might expect all eight gifts to be in health reform-friendly blue states. Or in ACA-squeamish red states, where the need for an enrollment push is greatest.

But both pro-ACA and anti-ACA states are represented on the list. There are Jacksonville, Florida, and Dallas, Texas rubbing shoulders with New Bedford, Massachusetts and Providence, Rhode Island. And the most amazing thing is that this gift is covering cities in states on both sides of the Coverage Gap.

There are states where Medicaid was expanded mightily when the ACA came to town—states where, presumably, boosting enrollment is a tad easier since so many more people now qualify. Conversely, there are states where Medicaid stayed small, and where a whole lot of lower-income people earn too much to qualify for the ACA but aren’t poor enough to enroll in Medicaid.

It seems like a gamble to give these eight cities comparable amounts of money and stand back. I have a feeling everyone involved is about to learn a whole lot about health care enrollment outreach.