With the deadline to sign up for heath insurance without penalty fast approaching, Rep. Keith Ellison was on hand at Minneapolis Community and Technical College (MCTC) to encourage enrollment.
Ellison (MN-5) said MCTC was the perfect venue to enroll individuals, as the student population at the downtown Minneapolis college is disproportionately uninsured or under insured. Along with Ellison, MNsure Navigators from Minneapolis Urban League, and NorthPoint Health & Wellness, African American Legacy institutions collaborating to helping MNsure reach the uninsured and underinsured, were on hand navigating people through the enrollment process. NorthPoint and Minneapolis Urban League navigators provided computers, access, and guidance to people who wanted to enroll in health plans.
"It was a great event," said Angela Williams, Urban League's lead Navigator who worked alongside Marcel Lynn, NorthPoint's Lead Navigator. "We enrolled 10-15 new individuals."
The deadline to enroll without penalty is March 31. That deadline does not apply to individuals who qualify for Medical Assistance or Minnesota Care. The event that took place this past Tuesday (March 18), drew the interests of several students looking to become insured or to find more affordable coverage.
"Just because you're 22 (years of age) and strong and beautiful doesn't mean you don't need healthcare," said Ellison to a group of students gathered on the campus' second floor skyway. "Here's the reality; you don't know when you're going to need health insurance. You could be walking and slip on ice and end up looking up at the sky and your first thought is going to be, 'how much is this going to cost me?'"
Ellison who has been a vocal supporter of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that was passed in 2009 and went into law at the start of the year, said prior to the law taking effect the number one cause for bankruptcy was medical debt.
"But in order for it (ACA) to work we've got to get everybody signed up," said Ellison. "We know if you're insured it saves the country money, but most importantly, it saves you money. Getting covered is the right thing for you and the right thing for you to do for your parents."
Josie Browning agreed with Ellison. The 20-year-old film student said dealing with Type 1 diabetes was costing her family about $3,000 a month for medicine and management supplies. Browning said even though she was covered under her mother's insurance, the $3,000 was an out of pocket cost before the deductible was reached.
Ellison spoke to an individual who said he lost several friends who died in their 50s because of heart disease, stroke and other conditions.
"When you're 50 you've got to stay in shape or very quickly you'll be out of shape," explained Ellison. "You aren't supposed to die at 50-years-old."
Tara Martinez, director of Student Life at MCTC said she recognized the need to have MNsure representatives on campus to assist the school's diverse student population.
"We surveyed students and learned that a quarter to one-third of our students are uninsured or under insured," said Martinez.
Martinez said the school, which has an on-site "quick clinic," benefits directly from students being insured.
"Students are seen at our clinic regardless of if they are insured or not, but those who are insured help to offset the costs, so it's definitely beneficial to have more of our students insured," explained Martinez.
The congressman stayed on hand for over an hour and a half personally directing students to sign up for healthcare through the on site MNsure navigators.