The state's full congressional delegation, with the exception of Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, has written to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services backing a Massachusetts Fishing Partnership application for a three-year, $4 million grant for a project aimed at helping fishermen find their best fit for health insurance.
"The project has three primary tasks," states the application from the partnership, which has extensive Gloucester ties: "transitioning and, or enrolling fishermen and their families into affordable health insurance plans, coordinating and facilitating health care and social services, providing on-going care coordination and safety training."
The letter was signed by Sen. John Kerry and the 10 Democrats in the House including Congressman John Tierney.
But Brown declined due to the program's funding source — "Obamacare," Brown's press secretary, John Donnelly, told the Times on Thursday.
The letter was drafted in the office of Congressman William Keating of Quincy.
"Successful receipt of Health Care Innovation Challenge funds would allow the Fishing Partnership to hire up to nine additional community health service navigators throughout New England — bringing their total to 14 — and provide each navigator with comprehensive health care training," the congressional lawmakers said in their letter dated Monday.
"... In all, the partnership expects to save over $11 million through this expansion and expand their services to as many as 30,000 individuals.
"We understand that the success of the partnership is, in part, due to their hiring and training of fishermen's wives as community health service navigators," the congressional letter said.
"In turn, the navigators provide support services and training programs through collaboration with managed care organizations to reportedly over 2,000 family members and dependents of fishermen and related industry workers."
According to Fishing Partnership statistics, the community outreach-based model and collective prevention efforts — whose "navigators" include Angela Sanfilippo of the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association — has helped reduce the rate of uninsured fishermen from 43 percent to 13 percent.
The nonprofit partnership — an organization that for many years extended health care benefits to New England's fishermen and others who work within the industry — shifted its focus to provide more overall social outreach and steer fishermen to the best coverage plans for which they're eligible.
The shift was driven by enactment of the new federal universal health insurance program approved by Congress in 2010.
Partnership president JJ Bartlett said the organization's goals remain the same as when it was launched in 1995. Bartlett, an Acton resident, has worked with all segments of the fishing industry and was called by the White House Office of Health Reform earlier this year to testify on health issues and the unique health care needs of the fishing industry.
In 2010, the most recent year for which the organization's U.S. Internal Revenue Service "990" in lieu of tax filing form was available, Bartlett was paid a salary of $194,979 by the partnership, while vice president David Bergeron of Gloucester was paid $73,192. Bergeron heads Mayor Carolyn Kirk's Fishery Advisory Commission.
In 2010, the organization, while still providing health insurance services primarily via Harvard Pilgrim, reported grants and contributions of $3.9 million and program service revenue of $6 million.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000 x3464, or firstname.lastname@example.org.