Five Ways to Help Rural Families Get Health Coverage by March 31

At the RuFES Action Network, we are always looking for creative and practical ideas to help families Earn itKeep it and Grow it. One of our Framework’s 28 family-focused goalsKeep It Goal 8, motivates us to find ways to ensure that, “families have ready access to affordable basic goods and services,” including health care. Almost always, affordable health care starts with affordable health insurance.

March 31 is the deadline to buy health insurance through the new marketplace. Barring extraordinary life events, families will need to apply for coverage in the next few days to get coverage in 2014.

So what can you do? Since January, a group of RuFES Network members have met monthly to share ideas and advice about helping rural families enroll in health insurance at free tax prep sites. The ideas they have shared, while particularly relevant to organizations offering free tax prep services, can be applied by any RuFES Network member working with rural families. Whether you come from a community foundation, a CAP agency, a Head Start or other organization, you can act today to help families in your community know their options and get the coverage they need.

Here are five simple and effective ways you can help families protect themselves and their loved ones:

1. Give Families the Basics

Many rural families still do not realize how the health care law will affect them and what options exist for affordable coverage.  To help families better understand the process, draft a script you can talk through with them, or print out a brochure that provides the basic facts. What should you say? We recommend something like, “Starting this year, most people will be required to have health insurance. To make insurance available to those who can’t afford it, more people—like you!—will be eligible for free health insurance or for tax credits that will lower their health insurance premiums.” To learn more about what to say, download this sample brochure on or learn more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

2. Show Families How Much Money They Can Save by Applying for Coverage
The Kaiser Calculator works on computers, tablets and phones.

In about a minute, you can help a family estimate their Premium Tax Credit—financial assistance families can use to buy quality coverage. Using the Subsidy Calculator on a computer, tablet or even a smartphone, you can calculate a family’s savings and let them know that applying for coverage is worth their while.

3. Warn Families of Potential Tax Penalties for Not Getting Coverage

For those of you who know a little bit about taxes, it may also be helpful to let families know what their tax penalty will be if they do not get coverage. Using another online tool called the TPC Calculator, you can help a family predict their tax penalty so that they know there are costs – more than just the lack of peace of mind – to not enrolling in affordable health insurance.

4. Screen Families for Coverage and Make Referrals

Asking families just two quick questions will let you know if they should apply for health insurance. Here’s what to ask:

  • Do you have health insurance?
  • Does everyone on your tax return have health insurance?

If the person or someone else on their tax return does not have health insurance, refer them to or a professional listed in this directory so that they can get the coverage they need.

5. Find Local, Professional Health Insurance Experts to Serve Your Families

There are trained professionals – even in many rural communities – to help families apply and shop for coverage. Visit and invite a professional to meet with your families.

RuFES is a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group.
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