UWM and partners host health insurance enrollment event

The Norris Health Center provides high-quality medical service to students at UWM. (UWM Photo/Derek Rickert

One in six young adults in America do not have health insurance, which can put them at risk for medical debt and significant health problems.

Recognizing that a healthy student is more likely to graduate from college, UWM, the City of Milwaukee Health Department and the nonprofit Covering Wisconsin are hosting a health insurance enrollment fair for students (members of the general public are welcome) from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 26, in the ballroom of the UWM Student Union. Students and community members can make an enrollment appointment ahead of time at Coveringwi.org/enroll. Walk-in enrollment appointments with experienced health-care “assistors” can also be made on a first-come, first-served basis at the event. Appointments take about one hour.

“Health-care access is a campus health priority because UWM students have to make decisions every day about the next steps in their care, and those decisions are influenced by whether they have access to high quality health insurance,” said Julie Bonner, campus health officer and executive director of Norris Health Center and University Counseling and Health Promotion and Wellness. “Many are living away from home for the first time, managing their health care independently, and navigating a very complex health-care system at the same time they are adjusting to college.

“Having a university health center staffed by medical, mental health and health promotion professionals is key to our students’ health and well-being. Helping students enroll in an affordable health insurance plan or understand their insurance is another important piece of the puzzle in ensuring they have access to specialist care, emergency room care, X-rays, medications, and other procedures.”

UWM is one of hundreds of colleges and universities working to get more college students insured by Jan. 31. The university recently became one of about 60 schools recognized by the White House for meeting the goals of its Healthy Campus Challenge.

“There are many factors that figure into graduation in addition to health, including finances, time to study, family challenges and social supports,” said Kim Litwack, interim dean of the College of Nursing. “But without feeling good and being healthy, all of these become more difficult challenges. Having health insurance allows for access to care, with that care including health education and health promotion as well as healthcare.”

The Jan. 26 event at UWM will provide expert assistance in helping students, faculty, staff and community members enroll in the federal insurance marketplace or Wisconsin’s BadgerCare Plus program, as well as food and childcare benefit programs.

Health insurance is a hot topic as lawmakers in Washington, D.C., and across the country debate the future of the Affordable Care Act, federal legislation signed in 2010 that expanded Americans’ access to health insurance.

We can’t predict when coverage may change under the Affordable Care Act, but we do know that getting affordable coverage in 2017 is really important,” said Nicholas Duke, southeast navigator lead with the nonprofit Covering Wisconsin. “January 31 is the deadline for healthcare.gov, and we want to make sure that everyone has a chance to sign up for their best insurance option this year.”

While the Healthy Campus Challenge targets uninsured college students, the UWM Health Insurance Enrollment Fair is open to members of the general public, and the appointment website is already accepting reservations.

Tim Danielson, associate vice chancellor for human resources at UWM, says it makes sense to host a community signup event at the university, one of southeastern Wisconsin’s largest employers.

“We really see UWM as a major contributor to the economy of this region, and part of what secures the economic health of a region is that its citizens have health insurance,” Danielson said. “A good reason for us to host this event is that it gives anyone from this region access to information about healthcare resources.

“A healthy workforce,” he adds, “is a productive workforce.”

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