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Engaging Communities of Faith to Help Americans Gain Health Insurance

Nov 13, 2013, 2:46 PM, Posted by John R. Lumpkin

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With the opening of health marketplaces and the Affordable Care Act’s partial expansion of Medicaid, our nation has an opportunity to substantially expand health insurance coverage for all Americans, and ultimately, to significantly reduce racial disparities in access to affordable coverage.

But to achieve that goal, communities of color must attain robust enrollment gains. That’s why RWJF is working with religious leaders and their congregations to help make sure that all who are eligible enroll.

The Problem

According to United States Census data for 2012, approximately 48 million Americans are uninsured. It is a problem that cuts across all racial and ethnic groups, but is most acute in two, resulting in 19 percent of African Americans and more than 29 percent of Hispanics living without health insurance.

In 2009, the Institute of Medicine documented what many suspected: The uninsured are much less likely to obtain preventive care; get timely diagnoses for illnesses, including cancer; receive treatments for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma; and take prescription medications as recommended by physicians.

Beyond the health consequences of uninsurance, there are steep costs for our economy. We all pay the bill for indirect fiscal burdens associated with the uninsured—including illness and injury, decreased workforce productivity, developmental and educational losses among children, and shorter life spans, costing the U.S. economy between $100 and $200 billion each year.

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ABCs of the ACA: Bill and Barack Explain it all for You

Sep 27, 2013, 11:21 AM, Posted by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MPH Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MPH

RWJF President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey took part in a panel discussion at Tuesday's Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York, and that was quite an honor. But, she writes in a recent blog post on the professional social networking site LinkedIn, the highlight of the day was what happened after the panel discussion: a presentation by presidents No. 42 and 44—Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The two leaders delivered a clear explanation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and its implications for the future of the country.

And what they explained, Lavizzo-Mourey adds, was incredibly helpful, as the two presidents cut through all the background noise surrounding this clearly polarizing issue.

Health care spending is a drag on the economy, and the two presidents drove home that point. All of that spending has a measurable impact on everyday economic life, Lavizzo-Mourey says, affecting even the cost of a new car. For every new car built by America's iconic auto makers, Ford and General Motors, she writes, you can add to the price tag $2,000 in hidden health care costs. Lavizzo-Mourey concludes: "It is critical for our nation's future economic wellbeing that we fix health care."

The law in its current incarnation probably isn't perfect, Lavizzo-Mourey admits, but it's here, and we'll learn how to make it better. "The ACA is one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out of Congress in a generation," Lavizzo-Mourey writes, "and if history is a guide we know the law will be further refined and improved once its impact can be discerned."

That said, she adds: "I’m looking forward to going back to the Clinton Global Initiative a few years from now to talk about the good we can do for people with the money we once spent on health care."

PBS NewsHour videotaped the exchange. It's available below. Lavizzo-Mourey recommends you watch it. And you can read the transcript here on Politico.

President Obama and President Clinton Talk Health Care Reform

Flipping the Clinic: The Beginning of the Beginning

Sep 25, 2013, 5:13 PM, Posted by Thomas Goetz

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How do you turn an idea into something bigger? It's necessary, but not sufficient, to start with a good idea, of course. But it also takes a community of supporters—people willing to step out of their busy day-to-day, and contribute time and brainpower to turning that idea into something closer to reality.

That was the goal of the first Flip the Clinic workshop, held in mid-September at the Foundation’s headquarters in Princeton, N.J. We invited 15 amazing thinkers and doers from various perspectives—doctors, nurses, patients, policymakers, entrepreneurs—and asked them to spend a full day (and then some) helping us turn the Flip the Clinic idea into something substantial, or at least substantiated.

The idea was to get some honest feedback on whether the idea has legs, and some expert input on where it might go. The result, by all measures, exceeded our expectations. Not only does the Flip the Clinic idea seem to meet a clear and broad need for new thinking about health care delivery, but it may just offer a necessary inspiration for doing some hard but necessary work in changing it.

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An Ambitious Effort to Get Americans Covered

Jun 17, 2013, 4:38 PM, Posted by Andrew Hyman

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As the nation’s largest public health philanthropy, addressing the crisis of the uninsured is central to our mission.

A 2009 RWJF-funded study by the Institute of Medicine documented severe consequences to the long-term health prospects of people living without health insurance. Put simply, the uninsured live sicker, suffer more, and die younger. And beyond the impact on the individual and their families, high rates of uninsurance strain communities’ health systems, limiting access to quality care for those with insurance.

Sadly, 50 million of our fellow Americans—nearly one in six of us—are uninsured.  For decades, RWJF has worked to remedy the crisis of the uninsured, and this week marks an especially important milestone, as “Get Covered America” kicks off across the nation. A grassroots, consumer-driven campaign, “Get Covered America” will educate Americans about new opportunities to obtain affordable health insurance in advance of open enrollment season this fall.

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