Affordable Care Act, Obamacare — June 17, 2014 at 12:01 pm

Medicaid expansion closes in on 300,000 enrollees in Michigan


The response has been outstanding, but there are still more uninsured Michiganders to reach—and Enroll Michigan is on it.

You might say there was some pent-up demand.

Michigan’s Medicaid expansion program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) didn’t launch until April 1, so uninsured Michiganders had to wait three extra months to enroll in the Healthy Michigan Plan. That’s because the Republican-led legislature didn’t give the law immediate effect, which would have allowed the program to launch January 1, 2014.

But people seeking insurance — and those helping people enroll — were undaunted. As of June 16, a total of 297,909 Michiganders had enrolled in the low-cost or free health insurance coverage available through the Healthy Michigan Plan, Michigan’s version of Medicaid expansion.

“The enrollment is just outstanding — in some counties, enrollment is almost at 100 percent,” says Dizzy Warren, statewide community outreach manager for Michigan Consumers for Healthcare (MCH) and project manager of Enroll Michigan, a program of MCH.

Having almost reached its goal of enrolling 300,000 Michiganders by the end of 2014 in less than three months, MCH — which built the state’s only statewide Navigator network to help people enroll — is now focused on uninsured populations that are hardest to reach, whether due to geography, lack of information access via newspapers and the Internet, or the barrier of political ideology.

Warren provides an example:

Benzie County is part of that demographic. They’re around 40 percent low-income, they’re 17 percent Hispanic and have large populations of aging and rural residents. They’re also ultra-conservative politically.

We’re looking at ways to reach these individuals, such as a church that serves the Hispanic population or the food banks and soup kitchens that serve people who are low-income or homeless. Far too many people still don’t know they’re eligible, so it’s going to take a very strategic approach to make sure these people have the opportunity to enroll.

Other avenues include hosting educational events at libraries and other public venues, and working with partners across the state. Enroll America also does everything possible to make people feel comfortable coming in to talk to a Navigator. Although these experts are conveniently located throughout the state and conversations take place in private areas, some Michiganders who don’t want their neighbors to see them enrolling have traveled to other counties.

The work of MCH recently got a big boost, with a $500,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The grant will help Enroll Michigan break through barriers to enrollment by supporting a statewide tribal, regional and community-based network with partners that reflect the populations that need to be reached and understand the community’s needs. According to Warren, the award will “greatly increase our efforts to reach hard-to-reach uninsured populations all over the state by the enlargement of Enroll Michigan’s network of navigators statewide.”

With as many as 500,000 Michigan residents eligible for the Healthy Michigan Plan, Enroll Michigan has made great progress — but there’s still more to do. Fortunately, enrollment is always open.

If you or someone you know needs insurance, there’s more information on the Healthy Michigan Plan at the Enroll Michigan website. You can also find personal enrollment assistance in your area there. 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.