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New program in Denver helps refugees navigate the U.S. healthcare system

Great news! The IRC in Denver recently received a grant from the Colorado Health Foundation for a new, one-year, health insurance literacy pilot project titled, “Engaging Refugees in Their Health Coverage Options.” Launched in July, the project will help empower Denver-metro area refugees with the tools and skills required to successfully navigate the U.S. healthcare system, including how to get, use, maintain and value health insurance coverage.

How it works. To help ensure effective, efficient and ongoing use of health insurance and its benefits, the project will center on targeted health insurance literacy education and outreach for newly-arrived refugees (including young people ages 15-18). The project will complement IRC’s existing case management program by providing individualized support beyond initial enrollment in health insurance. This guidance is especially important for those who are going through medical coverage transitions. For example, it will build essential knowledge and skills for those entering the workforce and enrolling in employer-sponsored insurance. It will also support refugees who are navigating the local health insurance exchange as well as those trying to understand how changes to the healthcare system may affect their access to coverage and care.

From the Executive Director. “We are pleased that the Colorado Health Foundation recognizes the unique circumstances of refugees in relation to health coverage, and we are honored that they chose to invest in this project,” said Jennifer Wilson, Executive Director of the IRC in Denver. “There’s substantial evidence that in-person interaction that integrates culturally and linguistically appropriate information is one of the most effective ways to move the needle for refugees with respect to understanding the value of health insurance,” she continued. “Furthermore, it’s been found that individualized, in-person assistance is critical in facilitating successful enrollment and effective benefit use among the populations the IRC serves.”

Beyond the IRC in Denver. The project aims to serve approximately 400 people, which may include IRC clients and asylees, Afghan and Iraqi Special Immigrant Visa holders, victims of trafficking, secondary migrants, Cuban and Haitian entrants and refugees resettled by IRC’s colleague resettlement agencies. The IRC in Denver will also work to strengthen partnerships with safety net providers, to help ensure that participants can be connected with services should they be left without coverage options due to changes in U.S. laws pertaining to health insurance.

Moving forward. This project is expected to create a culture of coverage among those served. As they gain solid health insurance literacy skills and understand the importance and value of coverage, participant are more likely to maintain coverage, use it effectively, achieve financial security and realize long-term benefits of improved health.

After the one-year grant period for the pilot project, the IRC in Denver plans to integrate health insurance literacy into existing activities supported by federal grants, state grants and private donations. Furthermore, it will leverage the tools, lessons, best practices and evidence generated from this project to benefit the broader community of refugee service providers across Colorado and the country.