Duluth Public Library launches MNsure programA coalition of Duluth organizations today officially began their effort to get area residents enrolled in health insurance.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
With the nonfiction stacks of the Duluth Public Library’s main branch as the setting — and a Babe the Blue Ox cake as a treat — a coalition of Duluth organizations today officially launched their effort to get area residents enrolled in health insurance.
The cake was a way of joining the iconic symbol known to Minnesotans of Paul Bunyan and Babe to the new concept of MNsure, Minnesota’s version of the online health insurance marketplace.
The library might seem a counterintuitive setting for Insure Duluth, the coalition of 16 public and private agencies. But it houses one of the so-called “navigators”: individuals trained to guide people through the process of enrolling for a plan.
Library manager Carla Powers said it’s a logical location.
“Studies have shown that people feel the library is a trusted place where they can go for information,” she said.
Angie Miller, director of Community Action Duluth, pointed to the need for such places. She noted that 11 percent of Duluth residents are uninsured, compared with 9 percent statewide.
It would have been the frosting on the cake if the library’s navigator had been certified to help people enroll by the time the news conference took place. But as of this morning, she wasn’t. The majority of Duluth’s navigators still await MNsure’s final approval, said Jenny Peterson, executive director of Generations Health Care Initiatives, which is coordinating the effort.
Dawn King, the library’s navigator, said she was hired in mid-August and completed her training as a navigator on Sept 27. But today, two weeks after the Oct. 1 enrollment start, she still was unable to help people enroll.
King was philosophical about the delay, noting that she has been able to help people enroll in other programs, such as Minnesota Care, and answer general questions about MNsure.
“They seem to just want to run their specific scenario by me and have me tell them how this may or may not affect them,” King said.
King will primarily be available at the main branch during regular library hours, Powers said. She’s also expected to spend some time at the West Duluth branch.
As of this afternoon, certified navigators were available at CHUM, 102 W. Second St.; Generations, 130 W. Superior St., Suite 700; and Community Action Duluth, 2424 W. Fifth St., Suite 102.
By the time of today's news conference, no one had enrolled via one of those navigators, Peterson said.
Eventually, 16 navigators will be certified at Insure Duluth sites, Peterson said, although not all are full-time positions. Separately, St. Luke’s hospital and Essentia Health have certified application counselors who can help patients with enrollment, she said.
In addition, United Way’s 2-1-1 phone line has been set up to help callers with their health-coverage questions.
Numerous insurance brokers are also certified to help individuals enroll. But people who are accustomed to dealing with social service agencies such as CHUM and Community Action Duluth might find it more comfortable to turn to their navigators than to a broker, Peterson said.
Two navigators have been certified so far in the rest of St. Louis County, according to information from MNsure. Both are located at Scenic Rivers Health Services in Cook.