Minnesota effort to enroll noninsured in health plans gets fundingA $230,000 grant will help fuel a wide-ranging effort to inform Duluthians about their coverage options under the Affordable Care Act.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
A $230,000 grant will help fuel a wide-ranging effort to inform Duluthians about their coverage options under the Affordable Care Act.
“We want to make sure that everyone can get enrolled,” said Jenny Peterson, executive officer of Duluth-based Generations Health Care Initiatives.
The grant will be used to do that in a variety of ways, such as:
The grant is part of $4 million awarded by MNsure, the name given for Minnesota’s version of the national online health insurance marketplace, which opens on Oct. 1. The agency wanted local coalitions to craft plans providing local places for people to ask questions and become enrolled, said Elizabeth Olson, program officer for Generations.
It’s especially needed in the greater Duluth area — including Proctor and Hermantown — because the region’s uninsured rate of 11 percent is 2 points higher than the state average, she said. The Affordable Care Act requires that all U.S. citizens and legal residents carry health insurance by Jan. 1 or face penalties.
Generations spearheaded the effort to obtain the grant as part of a coalition of 16 area organizations that began meeting in November to prepare to help the area’s uninsured enroll, Peterson said.
The grant is less than the $382,000 the local coalition had sought, Olson said. But the slimmed-down version includes all of the elements Generations had included in its grant request.
The MNsure grant isn’t the only effort to provide enrollment help in the Duluth area, Peterson said. A previously approved Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation grant made it possible to hire a navigator who will be based in the Duluth Public Library.
Focus groups in the community demonstrated that the library is seen as a welcoming place, said Carla Powers, library manager.
“The library doesn’t have the same stigma that social service agencies sometimes do,” Powers said. “Everybody comes to the library.”
The library navigator is in place but hasn’t had the necessary training yet, Powers said. She’ll have hours at the main library and at the West Duluth branch, but not all of the details have been worked out.
The door-knocking part of the campaign resulted from learning about similar efforts in Massachusetts and New York, Olson said. They’ll look for high-density neighborhoods with high numbers of uninsured that may not have enrollment sites nearby, she said. Each door-knocking campaign will be tied to a specific enrollment event at a site in that neighborhood.
Duluth is an ideal place to carry out an effective campaign, Olson said.
“Our population in Duluth (is) big enough to pull off a plan of this scale, but we’re small enough that we know the partners and who to be talking to and how to really work together,” she said.