ACA Enrollment Event Signs Up Southeast Asian Immigrants and Refugees

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Affordable Care Act

Photo of Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition staff inside the clinic.By Essey Workie, Regional Administrator, Region III (Philadelphia)

It’s time to sing for the unsung heroes. There is always at least one: a church, a corner store, a school, a recreation center – some place in the community that is trusted to help. In south Philly, that place is the Southeast Asian Mutual Assistance Associations Coalition (SEAMAAC), especially when it comes to helping people get covered. 

SEAMAAC has been in the neighborhood for nearly 30 years. It was started by refugee community members who wanted to make a difference. SEAMAAC’s mission is to support immigrants, refugees and their families as they seek access to opportunities, which would advance the condition of their lives. Getting health insurance is one of those opportunities. 

SEAMAAC recognized the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a game changer for the local community. SEAMAAC conducted a community needs assessment to design a plan to ensure that community members have the tools they need to apply for the new health insurance options during the ACA’s first open enrollment period. SEAMAAC partnered with other community and faith-based organizations (including a local Navigator), universities and the Administration for Children and Families’ Region III Office (ACF-R3) to put the plan in motion. 

In February 2014, SEAMAAC and ACF-R3 co-sponsored an enrollment event that helped 43 people with the application process.  SEAMAAC staffed the event with interpreters and Certified Application Counselors (CAC). SEAMAAC’s CACs are bilingual in English and Mandarin, Vietnamese, Khmer, Indonesian, Laotian, Hmong, Thai, Nepali, Burmese, Karen and Chin. SEAMAAC also helped community members prepare for the enrollment event by explaining the application process and identifying documents that would be needed. As a result 22 people got covered during the enrollment event and another 15 started the application process. During the SEAMAAC and ACF-R3 enrollment event, six people were determined ineligible for tax credit.   

Altogether, SEAMAAC has helped over 200 people apply for health insurance since the open enrollment period began. From October 2013 to February 2014, SEAMAAC conducted 14 Community Education Workshops and trained 452 immigrant and refugee community members about the ACA. They reached another 582 community members through their ACA outreach efforts. And they have no plan to stop. SEAMAAC will continue to conduct community workshops and provide support for community members through next enrollment period.

On March 10, SEAMAAC’s Director of Health & Social Services, Amy Jones, will present in a nationwide webinar to discuss how to host an enrollment event. Other speakers include Debbie Feierman of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Region III; Laura Line, Corporate Assistant Director of the Healthcare Resources for Human Development (a local Navigator); and Darlene Tart, Special Initiatives Coordinator for ACF-R3.  The webinar is part of the “ACF ACA March Madness Week.”


Essey Workie is the Regional Administrator and principal representative for the Administration for Children and Families, Region III in Philadelphia, Pa. The Region comprises six states:  Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.  Ms. Workie provides executive leadership and direction to ensure coordination and integration of activities across Head Start, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, child welfare, child care, child support, refugee resettlement and other programs for underserved populations in these states. She also leads key ACF initiatives including extending affordable coverage to the uninsured, promoting responsible fatherhood, preventing human trafficking and engaging community and faith-based partnerships

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