By Charles Hallman
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton signed a new health exchange law on March 21, which is expected to enroll an estimated 1.3 Minnesotans starting next year, including 300,000 currently uninsured. The health exchange is a key provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The new MNsure health exchange will mainly be used by those who can’t get affordable health insurance through their jobs and those on public health plans. Small businesses with 50 or fewer employees also can buy group plans through the exchange for their employees. It is expected to begin open enrollment on October 1, and coverage will take effect on January 1, 2014.
As a result, national advocates strongly suggest that these new state marketplaces are “consumer-friendly,” especially for Blacks and other people of color.
“Some people may have heard about these health insurance marketplaces,” noted Families USA Communications Project Manager Airrion Andrews during a March 22 webcast for reporters, including the MSR. He added that a New America Media poll found 72 percent of people “are unaware, and within communities of color, I think there is a much larger gap of understanding of these marketplaces and the options that they provide.”
At least 20 percent of Black Americans, 17 percent of Asians, and 30 percent of Latinos are uninsured, stated Andrews.
“It is very clear that there is a lot of work to be done in the next six months,” admitted Enroll America Managing Director Chris Wyant, who suggested a “grassroots-focused [and] coalition-based” approach should be used. “Three things need to be done: We have to have the right messengers, the right message, and have to use the right channels to communicate to the uninsured.”
Tailoring such messages to the particular communities is important as well, continued Wyant, which also means “having people in communities to have conversations on a person-to-person basis. The people that are most trusted to communicate these messages are doctors, family members.
“Someone who was uninsured and has gone through this process and can talk about their experiences, and help agencies above the state and federal level, can be important,” he points out. “There is going to be help available in person, on the phone and on line.”
Next week: Outreach to communities of color
For more information, go to Enroll America’s website: www.getcoveredAmerica.org or the MNsure website, www.mn.gov/hix.
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