An Ambitious Effort to Get Americans Covered

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

A doctor examines a teenage patient's ears.

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.

RWJF provided a grant earlier this year to Enroll America to organize the “Get Covered America” campaign, and also pledged an additional challenge grant to encourage other donors to join us in this effort to reduce the staggering number of uninsured Americans.

Our support for this campaign, along with other efforts to educate people about their options, is a continuation of RWJF’s effort over many years to enroll eligible people in health insurance programs. For example, starting in 1997, RWJF made a decade-long investment of nearly $150 million to enroll children and low-income adults in coverage for which they were eligible.  During this time the total number of children covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program doubled, from 2.2 million to 4.4 million, and total Medicaid enrollment increased by 10 million people. (Find more background here.)

Significantly, RWJF did not act alone.  We partnered with government officials, as well as major health stakeholders to streamline eligibility and enrollment systems to reach out and enroll eligible people.  More recently, expanding participation in the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit followed a similar model of public-private cooperation.  These examples highlight an important role for philanthropy as the Affordable Care Act’s coverage provisions take effect this fall: working closely with the public and private sectors to ensure robust enrollment.

With nearly 30 million of America’s uninsured eligible for new coverage options created under the law, “Get Covered America” has undertaken an ambitious series of goals. Over the summer, campaign volunteers and staff will fan out in communities across the nation to provide people with straightforward information about these new options:  their ability to shop for insurance once the state and federal marketplaces open for enrollment in October, the availability of tax credits for which they may be eligible, and for the lowest income people, eligibility for Medicaid in states that have chosen to pursue that option.

To learn more about “Get Covered America” and what you can do to help, visit