A Maine nonprofit landed a two-year, $750,000 grant for marketing and outreach to help people sign up for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The new funding will help make up for a loss in federal advertising dollars for the ACA.

The Maine Health Access Foundation received the grant and will be working with other nonprofits this fall and in 2020 to help people sign up for Medicaid. It also plans to use some of its own money to help people sign up for ACA insurance through www.healthcare.gov. About 71,000 Mainers have health care coverage through the ACA, down from about 76,000 in 2018.

The Augusta-based nonprofit, which works on public health policy issues, collaborated with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to apply for the grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a New Jersey-based health philanthropy organization.

“Health insurance coverage is not the only piece in the puzzle to ensure access to care, but it is the critical first step,” Barbara Leonard, president and CEO of the Maine Health Access Foundation, said in a statement.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant also will be used to research the expansion population.

Open enrollment for ACA coverage in 2020 will run from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.

The Trump administration, which is opposed to the Affordable Care Act and is attempting to repeal it through the federal courts, has slashed advertising and marketing budgets for the ACA. Nationally, the federal government has cut advertising spending from $63 million in 2016, before President Trump took office, to $10 million in 2018.

Maine’s federally funded statewide advertising budget declined from $550,000 in 2017 to $100,000 last year.

This new infusion of funds over the next two years, including $750,000 in Robert Wood Johnson Foundation money plus $220,000 of Maine Health Access Foundation funds, will make up in part for the loss in federal advertising. The funding also is aimed at boosting Medicaid expansion enrollment, which currently is at about 37,000 Mainers, but projected to reach 70,000 or more when fully implemented. Maine expanded Medicaid in January, on the first full day Democratic Gov. Janet Mills took office.

“More than 37,000 people across Maine now have insurance through the expansion of (Medicaid) MaineCare, but we want to reach everyone who still struggles to afford preventive care, doctor’s visits, and medication,” Jeanne Lambrew, Maine’s health and human services director, said in a statement.

A family of three that earns up to $29,435 is eligible for Medicaid, while that same family can earn up to $85,320 and be eligible for subsidies when purchasing ACA insurance.

Meanwhile, Mills announced in August that in 2021 the state will be creating a state-based health insurance marketplace under the ACA. That would replace the current federally run system, where the federal government is in control of all aspects of getting people signed up for coverage.  When the state transitions to the new state-based system, Maine would still use www.healthcare.gov, but would take over all outreach efforts. By doing so, Maine would gain about $2 million in federal dollars to pay for outreach and advertising, state officials said.

Maine would join 17 states – including Massachusetts, California and New York – that run their own state-based marketplaces.

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