In 2016, we turned our attention to the rollout of a new five-year strategic plan aimed at addressing health equity through strategies that target health coverage and care.

Implementing a strategic plan may sound like mundane work, but our year was anything but uninteresting.

The strategic plan adopted by the Board of Directors at the end of 2015 called for pursuit of a larger goal of achieving health equity by investing in efforts that directly impact barriers to health coverage and care.

With this endgame in mind, we set our sights on two targets specific to reducing uninsurance in our region and bolstering the capacity of the health care safety to serve more consumers. When the foundation adopted a strategic plan in 2015, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) presented exciting opportunities to expand health coverage in Kansas and Missouri and incentivized innovations in health care delivery and patient-centered care.

Moving the Needle
in Two Key Areas

Reduce the percentage of uninsured in the REACH service area from 11% in 2014 to less than 5% by 2020.

Increase the number of consumers served by the health care safety net from 185,000 in 2014 to 220,000 by 2020.

To take advantage of those opportunities, we selected three outcome areas for community investments:

  1. Enroll all eligible in health coverage
  2. Close the coverage gap
  3. Strengthen the capacity of the safety net to provide quality and integrated care

This frame helped us prioritize strategies and place additional emphasis on the coverage and care needs of particular population groups: Homeless youth and adults, immigrants and refugees, and youth transitioning out of foster care. The three outcome areas, priority populations and targets are presented within a theory of change – charting our leadership, resource and community investment priorities for the next five years.

The foundation allocated half of its grant funding for 2016 to these outcome-area investments and sought out proposals to help us with particularly high-priority projects, such as health insurance marketplace outreach and enrollment. Within the Enroll All Eligible outcome area, the foundation awarded 21 grants totaling $612,235 to support ACA outreach in underserved communities, bilingual navigation and enrollment assistance, and access to digital ACA marketing and scheduling tools. Within the Strong Safety Net outcome area, we awarded grants totaling $156,910 to support continuation of patient-centered medical home practices in Federally Qualified Health Centers and advance integrated care in community health and mental health centers.

The REACH Board has continued to champion investments in health policy and advocacy. Many of these grants were made within the Close the Coverage Gap outcome area. One highlight was collaboration with five other health foundations to launch the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a statewide education and advocacy campaign to build support for Medicaid expansion in Kansas. REACH invested $145,978 to support the campaign, which employed research, media outreach, public forums and consumer action to activate Kansans in support of closing the Medicaid coverage gap. Within our own team, board and staff leaders helped convene and contribute to policy discussions, community forums and communications with elected officials.

In addition to these outcome investments, REACH continued its commitment to award core operating support to nonprofits considered essential to our work. In 2016, we awarded grants to 27 organizations for a total of $1,350,000.

An important part of the culture of REACH involves our own development, education and understanding of health concerns, unmet needs and models for health improvement. To better understand health barriers that affect immigrant, refugee and migrant worker populations, the foundation partnered with the Hispanic Development Fund at the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation to fund a regional analysis of the metropolitan area’s immigrant populations. The study and community briefing for area foundations and other stakeholders served as a launching pad for other projects, including a series of convenings with health providers, public health professionals, refugee resettlement agencies, and refugee and immigrant consumers to understand barriers that get in the way of care.

For us, 2016 began with a clear focus on expanding health coverage, addressing disparities and finding ways to ensure that no one would be left behind. As was true for many of our partners, the year ended with uncertainty about the future of the Affordable Care Act, health coverage and the viability of the safety net. As we always have done, the REACH Board and staff will continue to work with our colleagues and allies in the nonprofit, civic and business sectors to continuously pursue strategies that contribute to health and well-being. Our commitment to health equity remains strong even as we consider the path forward in the new year.

Thank you for your interest in our work, and the ideas and innovations you bring. We look forward to more of these conversations.