Community organizers throughout Wisconsin plan to begin offering sessions as early as Oct. 2 to help people being removed from the state’s Medicaid program next year assess other health care options.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker rejected federal money to expand Medicaid coverage, and instead the state will reduce enrollment by an estimated 92,000 people. The state plans to start sending letters later this month to those who will lose coverage after Dec. 31.
Those residents are expected to seek health insurance through a new online exchange being set up by the federal government. The exchange will allow people to shop for health insurance and compare plans, but advocates worry that many low-income residents have limited access to the Internet and could have difficulty figuring out their best options.
“There could be issues around literacy. They may not be English-speaking, they may be homeless. They could get the notice in late September, and they may not understand it,” said Molly Bandt, director of Covering Kids and Families in Madison. “There are still things to work out – although on the positive end, there’s a lot of energy in trying to get the word out.”
Covering Kids and Families, which works to get children and families enrolled in Medicaid programs, is among the groups planning seminars at job centers, schools and libraries across the state. Trainers will discuss the new law, explain what is and isn’t changing and help people figure out which plans work best for them.
The Milwaukee Health Care Partnership has been asking churches, community leaders and advocacy organizations to help reach out to low-income people losing their coverage. The idea is that it’d be most effective to reach people through those they already know and trust, executive director Joy Tapper said. Pastors and neighbors can contact Medicaid recipients, let them know about the coming change and direct them to the partnership for more information, she said.
That strategy worked well in Massachusetts, where organizers identified word of mouth as one of the most critical factors in successful outreach, Tapper said.