Wis. groups struggle to reach uninsured for signup

APPLETON, Wis. (AP) — The health care overhaul law has made insurance available to 500,000 Wisconsin residents who don’t already have it, but many are not aware of their standing.

Groups working to teach the uninsured about their options say they are having trouble finding and reaching those in need, the Post-Crescent Media reported (http://mnhne.ws/1hiLc8i ).

Some experts blame a lack of money and coordination.

“We just don’t have the resources to get out and really do the job we need to,” said Bobby Peterson, executive director of ABC for Health, a public-interest law firm in Madison that helps connect families around the state with health care.

Wisconsin’s community health centers received a $1.7 million federal grant to help enroll residents, and six other organizations got about $1 million more to target specific groups. But coordinators say that’s not enough to cover the cost of finding the half-million affected people and explaining complicated issues such as deductibles and premiums.

U.S. Rep Tom Petri, a Fond du Lac Republican who opposed the law, said the measure was inherently confusing, regardless of how much money was set aside to help explain it.

“I think there is bound to be a lot of confusion with the implementation of the law no matter how much money you spend advertising it,” he said in an email.

Even if the uninsured get signed up, a secondary challenge will be making sure they stay enrolled, said Michael Bare, a program coordinator at Community Advocates Public Policy Institute in Milwaukee. He said some uninsured people are so poor they’d have trouble paying a $20 premium per month.

“The education and the outreach and the information can’t stop once we have people enrolled,” he said. “There has to be some mechanisms in place to help make those payments and stay on the good side of insurance companies.”

One way to help educate individuals is to involve more people in spreading the word, Peterson suggested. Right now those who have insurance end up covering the bill when an uninsured person uses the emergency room, he said, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to have the uninsured shift into the new health insurance system.

“I think everyone should think about neighbors, family, friends, anyone who might need a little help learning what’s going on with the marketplace,” he said.

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Information from: Post-Crescent Media, http://www.postcrescent.com

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