The United Way of Dane County is joining forces with UW Health and Quartz to offer local residents a subsidized health insurance premium through their joint program, HealthConnect, according to a press release from the organization.
The program may help tighten the healthcare gap in Dane County, as the 2019–2021 Community Health Needs Assessment identified inequities in nearly every category of health outcomes along lines of race, gender, age, and other identity-based populations.
Piloted in 2014, this program has protected nearly 2,500 Dane County individuals and families, covering nearly $912,140 in premiums, according to the release.
Enrollment in the program is relatively straightforward, requiring folks to be a US citizen living in Dane County, have an income within the stated range, and fit within acceptable criteria for federal assistance through the Affordable Care Act. Geared toward low-income folks, HealthConnect has provided preventative care such as screenings and vaccinations for over 80 percent of those previously or currently enrolled, providing public health benefits in addition to personal health outcomes.
Despite being ranked among the top 10 healthiest counties in Wisconsin and flaunting an extensive provider system, over 25,000 Dane County residents do not have health insurance, according to US Census data. This is particularly concerning when considering how disparities in access to affordable healthcare may correlate with disparities in health outcomes. For example, African Americans living in Wisconsin make the least on average in terms of median household income, and also experience higher incidence of heart disease, lower life expectancies, and higher infant mortality rates.
Wisconsin is also the only state with expanded eligibility for Medicaid coverage without receiving additional federal funding for the programs, the most extensive of which is BadgerCare Plus. Yet, when Governor Tony Evers announced his budget for the previous fiscal year, he proposed to broaden the BadgerCare Plus coverage of adults in order to reach the threshold needed to receive additional federal funding, which would have potentially offered another avenue of health care for low-income folks if passed. The Republican-controlled state legislature will most likely further prevent this funding from rolling in any time soon.
Regardless, the reception of HealthConnect has been positive in the past five years of the program’s existence, with 2019 enrollees praising the subsidy for allowing them to worry less about their already-tight budgets, and provide themselves and their families with the medical care necessary to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle.
HealthConnect’s application period runs from Nov. 1 to Dec. 15 and, for those eligible, may fully cover monthly premiums starting in January 2020. The application is available on the United Way of Dane County website.