Building a healthy exchangeLIZ OLSON: Many who enter CHUM looking for assistance with housing also lack proper health care. The majority of individuals served at CHUM are either uninsured or rely on publicly funded programs.
By: Liz Olson, for the Budgeteer
Many who enter CHUM looking for assistance with housing also lack proper health care. The majority of individuals served at CHUM are either uninsured or rely on publicly funded programs. Due to income, race, and illness, many of those served by CHUM have had negative experiences in accessing health care.
CHUM is looking to change that.
CHUM has been engaged in organizing work around health care issues over the last few years, from the cuts to General Assistance Medical Care to the current efforts toward developing the Minnesota Health Benefits Exchange.
What is this health benefits exchange? Whether you call it a health benefits exchange, insurance exchange, or just “exchange”, beginning January 1, 2014 it will be a new way to obtain effective health insurance. Exchanges are tools to make health insurance better, more affordable and easier to understand. Health benefits exchanges are one of the key parts of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in 2010. Each state can make its own exchange and its own choices, or let the federal government set up an exchange for them. In Minnesota we are designing our own. On the surface, the Minnesota exchange will be a website where individuals and small businesses can go to compare and enroll in health insurance plans and qualify for subsidies or public plans. But behind the computer screen, the exchange will be defined by important decisions about how to make good health insurance affordable.
At CHUM, we believe that the voice of those who will rely on the exchange for health insurance should be the same voice that is used to shape the development, and to govern the exchange once developed. By influencing key decisions as they are being made right now, Minnesotans can ensure that the health benefits exchange addresses current health disparities and promotes health equity.
How can we shape the health benefits exchange in a way that promotes health equity? We can ensure that 1) diverse consumer input is obtained while the exchange is developed, 2) effective language-access services are provided once developed, 3) robust outreach programs are developed that work with people of color and low-income communities, 4) the process of enrollment is simplified, 5) system navigators are included within community based organizations, and 6) quality strategies are developed to reduce racial disparities within health care.
Although the future of the health benefits exchange is uncertain, we are certain that bringing the voice of the people CHUM serves to the decision-making table is absolutely crucial.
Liz Olson is the director of congregational outreach at CHUM. Contact her at 218-740-2496 or email@example.com.