WHI’s MMOE workgroup offers community presentations on free and low-cost health insurance options

A MMOE intern distributed pamphlets on health care enrollment.The American Rescue Plan, which passed in March, dramatically decreased consumer costs for health insurance offered through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace. However, many of the uninsured are still unaware if they are eligible, unsure if they can afford it, or simply overwhelmed by the enrollment process.

To learn more about plans to spread the word throughout Washtenaw County, we chatted with Alena Hill of Michigan Medicine and Kim Hulbert of the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, co-chairs of the Medicaid and Marketplace Outreach and Enrollment (MMOE) workgroup, a WHI collaboration focused on increasing health insurance enrollment.

Why has MMOE decided to offer presentations to community groups?
Hill. Usually we focus on getting people enrolled during open enrollment, but we started to think about what we can be doing year long to educate people. We decided to offer presentations at churches and other community groups, especially places where we know we have low enrollment because people just don’t know what’s available. Right now we’re in the process of putting the presentations together. 
Hulbert. We want to present the same information whenever we go in the community.

Who are the presentations for?
Hill. One is small business groups, which have people who might not qualify for Medicaid and they’re not sure how to navigate the ACA marketplace. There’s also people who are self-employed, or people who might have a plan [through their job] but can’t afford it. Then there’s the church community. Students are also a big one. We’re hoping to present at parent orientations, so parents could think, “You should probably be signing up for this.” We want to help younger folks who may never have been sick. They’re thinking, “I don’t know if I want to spend money for health insurance.” They don’t know what the cost would be if they go to the ED. You can come out of there with an expensive bill.

What message do you want to share with the community?
Hill. There’s the idea that “I only need health insurance when I get sick.” We’re trying to get the message out that health insurance should also be used as preventative care to help patients avoid getting sick when possible.
Hulbert. In some cases, by the time someone gets to our emergency room they’re really, really sick. If we had been able to get them connected to care earlier, it may have prevented a serious illness. 
Health care and health insurance, it’s confusing. It’s difficult to navigate. I want to get the message out that we’re here to help and answer questions.

What would you want to say to a religious leader considering hosting a presentation?
Hill. Looking from a spiritual side, I would say while you as a leader are responsible for your congregation’s spiritual health, we are here to partner with you for their physical health. People tend to go to the church when they’re sick and when they need help. We want the church to see that from a health insurance perspective we can help and guide them.

Why is it important to talk about this now?
Hulbert. It’s important to act now because we have a special open enrollment period until August 15 [as part of the American Rescue Plan, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic]. This has never happened before, so this is a great opportunity and we want to get the word out there.
Hill. The other thing is they can have lower premiums. This is the first time there’s been a major decrease. And I think given the COVID crisis, this is a good opportunity for people to stop and think about their health. How can we be proactive in our own health and prepare for issues now?

When will the presentations be ready?
Hill. The new presentations will be ready by the fall. The good news is that we already have a presentation we use today, so if somebody called me today I can send someone out there. The only difference is that we are trying to make sure all of us have the same information.