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Story of Impact: Maine Health Access Foundation

by Mary Erin Casale
This case study is part of MANP’s Stories of Impact series highlighting the many ways Maine’s nonprofits are essential to a strong and healthy Maine.   

The Impact

Choosing the right health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) can be a complex and confusing mehafendeavor. That’s been particularly true in states like Maine that chose not to establish an online insurance “marketplace” to provide residents with reliable facts and a place to shop for and compare coverage. The Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) has helped fill that void with a $2.3 million initiative featuring a comprehensive statewide information campaign and a website,, that has connected tens of thousands of Mainers to health coverage and personalized assistance. Regardless of the future of the ACA, MeHAF and other nonprofits in Maine will continue working to ensure Mainers have access to affordable healthcare.

  • A multi-media, multi-language ad campaign raised awareness of the website and the benefits of enrolling. In just two months, awareness of the website as “Your Maine Connection to the Health Insurance Marketplace,” soared from zero to 36% statewide.
  • More than 60,000 users have visited since its launch in 2013, a major factor behind 84,000 Mainers successfully enrolling or re-enrolling in Affordable Care Act coverage. Maine has thus consistently been a national leader in insurance signups among the 38 states without their own marketplaces.
  • 3,000 to 4,000 Mainers a year received free, personalized help enrolling using a zip code tool on that connects users to local, federally-certified health care “navigators” or “assisters” throughout the state.

The Story Behind the Impact

The Maine Health Access Foundation (MeHAF) is the state’s largest, private, nonprofit health care foundation dedicated to promoting access to quality health care, especially for those who are uninsured and underserved. In 2010, when the Affordable Care Act  became law amid considerable confusion and misinformation about its rules and benefits, MeHAF decided to take the lead in providing Mainers and small business owners with reliable facts on how the law would affect them. They also wanted to connect people with personalized help in making health coverage decisions under the new law.

enroll207_widget_120x130Initial steps in the campaign included forging partnerships with a large network of nonprofits throughout the state to spread the word about the law’s impact and begin providing residents with guidance in enrolling through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace.  Since 2010, MeHAF has provided more than $3.3 million in such “Marketplace Outreach, Education & Enrollment” grants to 21 nonprofits.  MeHAF and its grantee partners have also organized dozens of informational events around the state, including forums for small businesses needing help in meeting the law’s requirements.

Hand-in-hand with its grantmaking has been an extraordinarily successful statewide marketing effort to raise awareness of the Affordable Care Act and options for affordable plans through the Marketplace. The MeHAF ad campaign, conducted by Burgess Advertising & Marketing of Portland, featured TV, radio and online ads, a social media campaign on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, and city bus advertising in Portland, Lewiston and Bangor.

18795_healthinsurancebooklet_bloghalfwidthThe centerpiece of the initiative has been the website. Launched in 2013, it provides all visitors — young and old, English and non-English speakers, consumers and small businesses — a wide range of reliable information about the Affordable Care Act and how to compare insurance options. Using the website’s zip code search tool, thousands of Mainers have been connected to free in-person help in tackling the complexities of enrolling or re-enrolling from certified assisters or brokers throughout Maine.

Despite the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act, will still be there to assist Mainers through the 2016-2017 open enrollment period, said Morgan Hynd, who oversees the MeHAF health access initiative. The website will be discontinued in February of 2017, having succeeded in its goal of familiarizing tens of thousands of Mainers with the enrollment process. Consumers needing help after the website shuts down can still turn to locally-based, federally-funded insurance navigators or assisters found through  Consumers for Affordable Health Care, an Augusta-based nonprofit, will also continue to offer Mainers reliable help enrolling through its toll free helpline (1-800-965-7476).

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