RWJF Seeks Coverage of 95 Percent of All Americans by 2020

Nation's largest health foundation unveils multi-pronged approach to supporting states in health reform implementation

    • May 6, 2011

Building on more than 40 years of commitment to expanding health insurance coverage, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) today unveiled a plan to provide states with essential resources to implement key health insurance coverage provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). RWJF will support technical assistance, research, consumer engagement, online networking and leadership development to help states most effectively expand and improve coverage, and will share critical lessons learned to ensure that all states are making the best decisions for their unique circumstances.

Experts estimate that the ACA will expand health insurance coverage to as many as 32 million people nationwide—reducing the number of uninsured people in America by more than half—but say these gains are far from assured. Much of the success in expanding the number of Americans with health insurance coverage will depend on states’ ability to implement effectively the coverage provisions in ACA.

“Expanding and improving access to health care, and providing stable, affordable coverage is now in the hands of the states,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “In the coming months, state health leaders will form strategies and consider options that best meet their unique coverage needs. It’s important that these ideas be shared, so that states can learn from each other. RWJF has a long history of effectively disseminating information, and we’re pleased to serve as an unbiased, nonpartisan convener to help different states share successful ideas that can be replicated, and warn of pitfalls that can be avoided.”

RWJF will invest in technical assistance, research and monitoring, and consumer engagement to support efforts to maximize coverage gains made possible by the ACA. Technical assistance to states will be provided through the newly created State Health Reform Assistance Network (the State Network). Focusing initially in 10 states, technical assistance offered through the State Network will focus on setting up insurance exchanges, instituting insurance market reforms, expanding Medicaid to newly eligible populations, streamlining eligibility and enrollment systems, and using data to drive decisions. Technical assistance will be provided by leading national organizations and experts in the field of health policy and coverage. The State Network is directed by Heather Howard, J.D., the former New Jersey commissioner of Health and Senior Services, and is based at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.

In addition to providing technical assistance to states, the Foundation will work with researchers and analysts to monitor and analyze the progress of state coverage gains. Recognizing that consumers’ voices will be critical to successful implementation, the Foundation will support consumer engagement in the policy development process in these 10 states through an initiative led by Boston-based Community Catalyst.

Participating states were selected through a competitive process to ensure that, as a whole, they represent diversity in terms of geography, demographics, coverage statistics and progress-to-date on implementation of the reform law’s provisions. The selected states are Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia. The Foundation deliberately chose to work with states that will offer a variety of models for expanding coverage, so that other states will be able to learn from the selected states’ experiences and achievements. RWJF will synthesize the lessons from these states and others, and make the lessons learned available to policy-makers across the U.S.

Recognizing that no one program will achieve the Foundation’s ambitious goal of ensuring coverage for 95 percent of all Americans, RWJF will continue its existing support for programs that provide leadership development for Medicaid directors, support investigator-initiated research on key health care issues and help states reform their eligibility and enrollment systems to ensure that eligible children and families are enrolled in available health insurance programs. The Foundation is also proud to support a new effort, Enroll America, which will bring together leaders from the public and private sector to ensure that best practices for enrollment are gathered and shared as states work to enroll children and adults as they become eligible for new insurance options.

RWJF and the National Academy for State Health Policy have also initiated a unique online resource, State Refor(u)m, that will help policy-makers, state health officials and the broader health policy community across all states explore opportunities created by the ACA and tackle implementation challenges. The forum connects state health officials looking for information with experts, by allowing users to:

  • Engage in real-time discussions with others on a variety of implementation issues;
  • Quickly and clearly assess where different states are in their individual efforts to implement reforms;
  • Receive and comment on expert analysis; and
  • Search, access and share information that cuts across programmatic, departmental and organizational boundaries in one, convenient location.

“Even states that have already made considerable headway in implementing reforms have a lot to do to meet the requirements of the law,” said Lavizzo-Mourey. “We intend to support states that want our help to be successful in expanding coverage.”


About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For nearly 40 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.