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Officials push residents to sign up for coverage

Officials push residents to sign up for coverage

Federal, state and local officials are pushing Wisconsinites to shop around and sign up for health insurance through the federal health reform law’s exchanges, as a crucial deadline approaches this week.

Those who want their policies to take effect at the beginning of 2017 need to sign up by Thursday. Kathleen Falk, a regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services, highlighted historic declines in the state’s uninsured rate.

“It’s just tremendous,” Falk said at a press conference at a Madison library Monday. “But we know despite this great progress, there are still a few more people out there that don’t have health coverage, and now is the time to shop.”

Falk said 66,000 signed up for coverage in November. Falk said that returning consumers may be able to save money by shopping around. Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel echoed that call.

“The fluidity of the health insurance market this year makes shopping for coverage an even more important responsibility,” Nickel said in a statement.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, who joined Falk at Monday’s press conference, predicted the program “is going to be around for quite some time,” despite plans by Republicans who control both the White House and Congress to repeal and replace the law.

“The more people who get enrolled, the more confident we are that it’ll be impossible to stop this program and to create a period where people will be without insurance,” he said. “To be very blunt about it: Let’s pile on. It’s for everybody’s benefit.”

Adam VanSpankeren, southwest navigator lead for Covering Wisconsin, said they’re holding events at libraries throughout the Dane County area to help people get coverage. He said some are concerned their policies might go away if the law’s repealed and replaced.

“Nothing’s happening right now,” he said. “People shouldn’t be afraid their tax credits are just going to evaporate. Right now is the time to sign up.”

United Way of Dane County’s HealthConnect offers financial assistance to cover premiums. CEO Renee Moe said the program has helped more than 1,700 families since it began in 2013. Two-thirds have used the program year after year.

“Every year we hear from HealthConnect participants who say this allowed them to get medical insurance and attention that they needed without sacrificing necessities like food or rent,” she said.

But she noted that they served roughly a quarter of the 4,300 Dane County residents who purchased health insurance and were eligible for the program, which is supported by UW Health.

Right now, about 620 people have signed up for the program for 2017. They provide assistance for silver plans offered by Dean Health Plan, Unity Health Insurance and Group Health Cooperative of South Central Wisconsin.

“The great news is there are still plenty of resources available,” she said.


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