In 2011, nearly 490,000 Minnesotans — 9.1 percent of the population — lacked health insurance, even though 60 percent of those were potentially eligible for state public programs. At present in the United States, health insurance is the best way to ensure access to health care, and lack of insurance is a proven barrier to care.
Lack of preventive health care and lack of treatment for medical conditions can lead to more serious illnesses and health problems, resulting in preventable hospitalizations and deaths. Moreover, lack of health care insurance coverage is associated with family economic stress and medical debt and poorer self-reported health status, which in turn influence employment.
This focus area was launched in 2012 with an initial emphasis on basic needs. In 2013, based on continued research and refinement, the Access to Coverage initiative sharpened its focus to increasing health care coverage for low-income Minnesotans throughout the state who are eligible for state public programs but are not currently enrolled. It also supports community organizations working together to create a statewide network that serves uninsured Minnesotans, conducting outreach, support, referral, application assistance and guidance services. In addition, the initiative helps these organizations to learn more about and prepare for health care reform.
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The lack of health insurance coverage triggers a cascade of potentially devastating consequences for many low-income Minnesotans. Without insurance, people are less likely to seek preventive care or care for routine medical conditions, which can lead to more serious illness and health problems. This has a direct financial impact on the uninsured as well as an impact on others as a result of higher premiums and health care costs.
The rates of people without insurance in Minnesota have increased over the past decade. In 2011, nearly 490,000 Minnesotans — 9.1 percent of the population — lacked health insurance.* More than half of the uninsured (60 percent) were potentially eligible for public program coverage.
Portico Healthnet is at the forefront of organizations working to reach out to potentially eligible residents and help them get and stay enrolled in a state-sponsored health plan. It sounds easy, but it can be a complicated process.
Some of the obstacles to enrollment include:
Portico and four other agencies around the state are working to form a coordinated network that ensures that they’re using the most effective tools, approaches and messages to help eligible low-income Minnesotans gain public health insurance coverage. Staff will use grant funds to screen people and help them complete applications for state public program plans.*Minnesota Health Access Survey conducted by the Minnesota Department of Health and the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.
Imagine for a minute that you just got the news that you and your daughter are being evicted from your apartment because you’re behind on the rent. Your minimum wage job barely covers the bills in the best of times, and you’ve recently missed work due to your daughter’s asthma. A kind friend has agreed to house you until you can find something of your own. Her two-person apartment now will house four people.
It’s probably not top of mind for you to explore whether or not you’re one of nearly 300,000 uninsured Minnesotans who may be eligible for the subsidized public health insurance that could have meant, above all, help for your daughter.
These situations are seen daily by staff at Western Community Action, located in Marshall, Minnesota. They’re dedicated to meeting the basic needs of area residents by providing food and clothing; emergency housing assistance; medical services; education and mentoring for children, youth, and families; transportation services; and affordable, stable housing. It is one of five organizations around the state to receive a $125,000 grant from the Foundation to help low-income Minnesotans find and keep health insurance. In partnership with four other agencies, Western Community Action covers 23 counties in southwestern Minnesota.
Having health insurance is the best way to ensure that people have access to care. It enables them to get routine preventive care and treat medical conditions before they become serious, resulting in fewer hospitalizations. Enrolling in coverage programs can be complicated, so Western Community staff are helping people determine if they’re eligible, understand their options and enroll.
Now imagine that you have insurance and you know which doctor you and your child can go to when one of you is sick. You’re sick a lot less because you’ve gotten the preventive care that helps you stay well. You’re missing less work and bringing home more money. With one big worry off your plate, you can think about meeting needs in other areas of your life, including finding a new apartment — because you have earned for a better one, not because you’ve been evicted.