KCK Mayor Mark Holland is fond of expressing the need in Wyandotte County by stating that we have 5 percent of Kansas’s population but 10 percent of its uninsured. After last year’s enrollment campaign, he may need to fact-check those numbers.
Data released by Health & Human Serves in 2014 showed that more than 4,000 applications were submitted from Wyandotte County during the 2013-2014 Marketplace open enrollment period. That vigorous response resulted in an 8 percent reduction in the percentage of uninsured adults in the county, from 26 percent to 18 percent. Of 105 counties in Kansas, only Seward County in the southwest matched that reduction. The New York Times helped map those numbers, which you can see at: https://goo.gl/mzkUyS.
A successful Marketplace rollout was crucial in Wyandotte County, and it wouldn’t have occurred without the tireless work of the Enroll Wyandotte collaborative. Led by the Community Health Council of Wyandotte County and Healthy Communities Wyandotte, the collaborative coordinated a massive public outreach campaign and helped inform and train local organizations who wanted to help.
Lucia Jones, Enroll Wyandotte County coordinator, photo originally appeared in The Wall Street Journal
The key to the success of the collaborative was shared ownership. Pillar organizations like El Centro and the Rosedale Development Association were able to participate but maintain their focus on ethnic or geographic target populations. The Wyandotte County Health Department opened up a walk-in clinic staffed five days a week. The KCK Public Libraries allowed space for Saturday enrollment. The Latino Health for All Coalition served as a place for the early group to gestate, make connections, and grow. Finally, the involvement of Mayor Mark Holland’s Office both in early planning and in publicity throughout enrollment raised the profile of the campaign and attracted considerable media attention.
Enroll Wyandotte was able to do this because of funding from Health Forward and the REACH Healthcare Foundation. Funding allowed the collaborative to hire a full-time coordinator and part-time assisters, which were especially important in the busy month leading up to the March 2014 deadline. A lesson of the first year effort was that the application process was complicated, and while volunteer Certified Application Counselors were important, paid staff was necessary to provide expertise and reliable support to the collaborative.
The foundations’ financial support has continued this year with the second enrollment period. Enroll Wyandotte expanded the network built last year, and is helping many Wyandotte County residents get insured. We are thankful to our partners, without which this collaborative would be impossible.
Finally, the most rewarding thing is to see individuals for whom health insurance was out of reach get coverage. We believe the affordable provision of health care is a basic human right, and have been honored to be a part of this historic expansion of coverage.