Innovative Technology Group Has Helped Deliver over $200 million in public benefits to Massachusetts Residents

Boston, MA, August 24, 2006. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation today announced that RealBenefits, a Boston-based non-profit, is among the first recipients of a new MacArthur award which recognizes small non-profit organizations with a proven track record of creativity and effectiveness.  The Foundation, well-known for its MacArthur Fellows awards to individuals, is extending its support for innovation to RealBenefits for its ability to change “social services as usual.”  

RealBenefits is among nine international winners of the MacArthur award for small organizations that are, according to Foundation President Jonathan Fanton “particularly effective at delivering services and challenging old paradigms.” 

RealBenefits is a web-based service that enables health care providers and social service agencies to connect individuals with appropriate assistance programs and manage all aspects of the enrollment process, from initial eligibility screening through renewal.  Since the service was introduced in Massachusetts three years ago, non-profit organizations and health care providers have used RealBenefits to reach 55,000 families, connecting them to over $200 million in benefits such as Medicaid and Food Stamps.

“Thousands of individuals in Massachusetts are not enrolled in the assistance programs for which they are eligible because of inefficient application processes and complicated rules,” said Enrique Balaguer, RealBenefits Executive Director. “Just as millions of Americans use Internet technology to file their taxes or apply for college financial aid, RealBenefits has created a technological bridge between Massachusetts residents in need and the health and income support services for which they are eligible.”
Nationally, approximately half of all adults who are eligible for Medicaid remain unenrolled.  In Massachusetts, less than 60% of all households eligible for Food Stamps are actually signed up for the program.  At the same time enrolling in these programs can increase a low-income household’s economic resources by 50% or more and free up dollars that can be spent on other basic household needs. 

Baystate Health, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, has been using RealBenefits for two years.  Baystate Health is an integrated delivery system that includes an academic medical center and two community-based hospitals, four health centers, and much more as its 9,500 employees serve a population of nearly 850,000 in western MA. 

“RealBenefits helps us work across departments so we can get uninsured patients into the right assistance program and the best ongoing medical care, “said Baystate Health Vice President of Government and Community Relations, Steven Bradley.  “Now we can screen everyone that comes through any of our sites and manage our enrollment processes with a single system. What we’d love to be able to do next is file RealBenefits’ applications electronically.”

RealBenefits technology is used by more than 40 organizations in Massachusetts, including Boston Public Health Commission and many members of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.

RealBenefits began in 2000 as a project of Community Catalyst, a Boston-based national non-profit that advocates for health care system change.  Since RealBenefits was fully deployed three years ago in Massachusetts and Illinois, user organizations have helped 80,000 families obtain public benefits valued at over $300 million.