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Abstract

Low-income families struggle to obtain and maintain public health insurance. We identified strategies used by Community Health Centers (CHCs) to assist patients with insurance applications, and assessed patients’ receptivity to these efforts. Observational cross-case comparative study with four CHCs in Oregon. We observed insurance assistance processes, and interviewed 26 clinic staff and 18 patients/family members. Qualitative data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. Patients’ understanding of eligibility status, reapplication schedules, and how to apply, were major barriers to insurance enrollment. Clinic staff addressed these barriers by reminding patients when applications were due, assisting with applications as needed, and tracking submitted applications to ensure approval. Families trusted clinic staff with insurance enrollment support, and appreciated it. CHCs are effective at helping patients with public health insurance. Access to insurance expiration data, tools enabling enrollment activities, and compensation are needed to support enrollment services in CHCs.

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