Affordable Care Act, Michigan, Obamacare — April 11, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Enroll Michigan connects consumers with coverage through Medicaid expansion


Enrollment started April 1 and it’s going gangbusters. There’s no deadline to enroll, but why wait? Experts are standing by.

Open enrollment for 2014 coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace ended March 31, but the people and organizations dedicated to helping people get health insurance haven’t slowed down. This is especially true in Michigan, where you might say that phase two of ACA enrollment kicked in on April 1. That’s when enrollment in the expanded Medicaid program under the ACA started.

It’s known as the Healthy Michigan Plan, and Enroll Michigan has been letting people know it was coming since late last year — even as they worked tirelessly to help people enroll through the ACA marketplace.

Now that the Healthy Michigan plan is finally here, it’s clear that Michiganders were ready, says Dizzy Warren, project director of Enroll Michigan, a program of Michigan Consumers for Healthcare.

On April 1, people were lined up at the agencies we’re working with, such as health centers. They’ve been waiting for this, and many people had already been in contact with our navigators so they’d be ready when the day came. It’s great and we’re excited about it.

The official numbers demonstrate the pent-up demand for health insurance among Michigan’s low-income uninsured, which include families working hard to make ends meet, seniors and veterans. As of April 10, nearly 86,000 Michiganders had signed up for Medicaid expansion.

This is only the beginning. As many as 500,000 people could be eligible, and Enroll Michigan hopes to enroll 300,000 previously uninsured people by the end of 2014. There’s no closing date on enrollment, but the sooner people sign up the sooner they’ll have health insurance that can save them money — and maybe even save the lives of people who have gone years without essential healthcare services.

“Letting people know they may be eligible is key,” Warren says. “That starts with the Enroll Michigan website.”

At the Enroll Michigan website, there’s a wealth of information on the Healthy Michigan Plan, eligibility and enrollment. You can also find personal enrollment assistance in your area, which is provided by trained, certified navigators and assisters. There are 300 different organizations working with Enroll Michigan. The organization is also hosting community events across the state — there were 83 outreach and enrollment events in the first week alone — which are posted on the website, too.

People without convenient computer access can find in-person help by calling (517) 367-7293. You can also text INFOMI to 69866 to get details. The goal, Warren says, is getting the word out.

When we considered the population that’s eligible for the Healthy Michigan Plan, we wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to get what they need and get enrolled. I can’t overstate the need to let people know help is available. They have options, and enrollment so far is going really smoothly. I hope everyone will tell their family and friends.

Helping people enroll in the Healthy Michigan Plan is just part of the work Warren has done to make sure Michiganders found coverage under the ACA.

Because of her efforts, she was honored with the Consumer Health Advocate of the Year award at the 2014 Health Action conference. Warren was heralded for helping Michigan surpass ACA enrollment numbers — even after the state rejected millions of dollars in funding for consumer education. Much of Michigan’s success was driven by her commitment to partnering with organizations across the state and helping them do their best work.

Warren said it was “shocking” to win the award, considering how many people like her across the country worked so hard in support of the ACA.

Winning was an honor that still surprises me, only to the extent that it wasn’t really about me. It was about the work all the folks in Michigan did and are continuing to do, and really recognizing the work everyone here is doing, including fighting for Medicaid expansion.

There’s still work to do, and we’re fighting a deliberate campaign of misinformation — especially in Michigan. But we’re already gearing up for 2015 ACA enrollment, and I think by the end of the next enrollment period the positive stories will have turned people around.

Remember: There is no deadline to enroll for the Healthy Michigan Plan. Contact Enroll Michigan for details.

[Photo credits: Top, Will O’Neill, via Flickr. Bottom, Dizzy Warren accepts the Consumer Health Advocate of the Year award, photo courtesy of Families USA.]