County Played Critical Role in Increasing Enrollment Numbers in Metro Milwaukee Area
MILWAUKEE – In advance of President Barack Obama’s visit to Milwaukee this Thursday to celebrate the metro area winning the White House Healthy Communities Challenge, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is highlighting the critical role the County played in providing significant staff, funding, and resources that have helped thousands of individuals get access to affordable healthcare.
Under Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele’s leadership, Hector Colon, director of Milwaukee County’s Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS), led the charge for the County in ensuring that more people have coverage. The County funds Impact 2-1-1, a social service community hotline, to provide accurate information about healthcare benefit options to individuals looking for help. IMPACT 2-1-1 also provides over-the-phone screening to help make appropriate referrals to enrollment assistance. The County also ran signage advertising this information every day during the open enrollment period on all 200 County-owned and managed buses.
In addition, the County has trained nearly 70 staff members to help clients understand where to go and how to get services through ACA exchanges, including four Certified Application Counselors (CACs), an intake service manager, and two administration coordinators. This staff directly enrolled more than 1800 individuals through programs at the County. Winged Victory, a program funded by the county executive, was also developed to assist individuals with disabilities in applying for benefits and other assistance for which they are available.
“The Affordable Care Act is working, and thanks to President Obama, the Milwaukee area is getting healthier every day,” County Executive Chris Abele said. “I’m thrilled to welcome the President to Milwaukee County so he can see firsthand how our broad coalition of healthcare partners has worked together to help people in our community get the coverage they need to live stronger, fuller, healthier lives. I also want to thank my partners on the County Board and the many Milwaukee County employees whose hard work helped make it possible for our community to win the White House Healthy Communities Challenge.”
Recognizing that racial and ethnic minorities are statistically less likely to have access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare, the County took several steps to help ensure full minority inclusion, such as collaboration with, and funding for, community groups like the Black Health Coalition. The Black Health Coalition has done education and outreach at churches, schools, and at-risk facilities around the County, with an added focus on the City’s north side. In addition, the County has partnered with Latino community organizations like Centro Hispano that enhanced outreach and took the lead on the production and dissemination of bilingual literature and educational information.
The Disability Services Division at DHHS funded the Restorative Justice Collective for ACA outreach efforts, including canvasses to thousands of households to inform them about health insurance coverage and phone calls and mailings to County households most likely to be eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
And at the Milwaukee County House of Correction, nearly 500 inmates so far have been enrolled in insurance through the Affordable Care Act, just since February of 2015. We believe the House is the first, if not only, correctional institution to take this proactive step to helping individuals enroll in healthcare. For many of these individuals it’s the first time they’ve had health insurance. Affordable, comprehensive healthcare is a critical component in these individuals’ participation in other supportive programming offered through the House of Correction, such as AODA treatment, mental health counseling, and peer counseling, that empowers them to live a better life and makes them less likely to reoffend in the future.
These investments are important to the overall health and well-being of our community. However, they have the added benefit of saving taxpayer dollars. To date, Milwaukee County has saved approximately $2 million as a result of the Affordable Care Act.