Working to Get More North Texans Insured  | United Way of Metropolitan Dallas

United Way Is Improving Access to Health Insurance

November is the start of open enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act 

Health is a critical component of a person’s life, affecting everything from how well they can learn at school to how successful they are in their career. That’s why we’ve identified health, along with education and income, as one of the building blocks of opportunity for all North Texans.

November marks the beginning of open enrollment for 2022 health insurance plans through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We’re diving into the topic of health insurance, with a look at how coverage impacts health, what’s new with ACA plans for 2022 and how United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is helping more North Texans get insured.

If you need support enrolling in coverage, click here to connect with one of our health care navigators.

The Impact of Health Insurance

For an individual, access to health insurance can have a huge impact on their health at every stage of life. Research shows that people with insurance tend to get better, more appropriate care, and they have better clinical outcomes and overall health, than people without insurance.

However, many people don’t have health insurance. According to Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), nearly 29 million Americans are uninsured in 2021. In Texas, more than 5.4 million people don’t have insurance—the most in any state.

Being uninsured not only affects the health of individuals; it impacts society as a whole. When large swaths of the community lack health insurance, cities and states wind up investing more on health care overall and in caring for uninsured residents, which can hurt the economy and slow growth.

Who Is Uninsured—and Why?

In North Texas, 18% of residents are uninsured. Coverage varies greatly by race:

  • 33% of Latinx residents lack insurance
  • 15% of Black residents lack insurance
  • 11% of Asian residents lack insurance
  • 8% of white residents lack insurance

Because people who are uninsured receive much different care than those who are insured, these trends contribute to racial health disparities in North Texas and throughout the country. For example, pregnant Black women in Texas account for only 11% of live births but 31% of maternal deaths. A variety of factors are at play here, and insurance coverage is a big one. When barriers exist that keep people from easily accessing affordable care, entire racial groups will have worse health outcomes.

Unfortunately, 17% of children in Dallas County are without health insurance—putting the county among the five worst in the country for adolescent health insurance coverage.

Why do so many people go without health insurance? Here are some of the most common reasons people give for being uninsured (from a survey conducted in 2019):

  • It costs too much (74% of respondents).
  • They didn’t think they were eligible for coverage (25.3% of respondents).
  • They didn’t need or want coverage (21.3%).
  • Signing up was too difficult or confusing (18.4%).

Here’s the good news: These statistics leave plenty of room for improvement. With more information and a little guidance, our neighbors who thought health insurance was too costly, not accessible or too complicated could go from uninsured to insured. That’s where organizations like United Way of Metropolitan Dallas come in.

How United Way Expands Health Coverage

In the area of health, our Aspire United 2030 goal is to increase to 96% the number of North Texans with access to affordable health care insurance.

The health care navigator program is one way we’re making progress toward that goal. The Biden-Harris Administration is awarding United Way of Metropolitan Dallas approximately $2.8 million per year for the next three years as part of a consortium to train and certify health care navigators. The navigators will assist with enrollment applications for coverage and financial assistance through the ACA Marketplace, Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

As Jennifer Sampson, McDermott-Templeton president and CEO of United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, explains, this funding is providing a critical service for many individuals and families in our region. “The Dallas area did not have this funding for the past four years, which had a direct impact on the number of uninsured who weren’t receiving support or information to navigate the complexity of finding a health care plan,” she said.

Enrolling in health insurance can be an overwhelming process. In fact, half of all consumers looking for health care coverage during 2020 open enrollment had problems enrolling, while nearly 5 million Americans couldn’t get in-person help.

Having health care navigators in North Texas will be incredibly helpful for our neighbors seeking insurance. Research indicates that the presence of navigators significantly increases the odds of people enrolling in coverage. Of those who worked with a navigator in the past, 94% said it was helpful, and 40% said they wouldn’t have gotten the same coverage without help.

“When a community has health care navigators, we see a significant increase in health care coverage,” said Daniel Bouton, director of health and wellness at United Way of Metropolitan Dallas. “Clients need support navigating the complexities of the health insurance exchange and finding the right coverage for them and their families. Navigators are a powerful resource in the community, building relationships with clients to get them enrolled, which over time has a positive impact on their health and the health of our region as a whole.”

What’s New for Open EnrollmenT

This week marks the beginning of open enrollment for 2022 health insurance plans through the Healthcare.gov exchange. Open enrollment runs through Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. You must enroll by Dec. 15, 2021, for coverage that starts Jan. 1, 2022.

Although open enrollment happens every year, 2021 has some important differences, thanks in large part to the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) in March. In addition to increasing funding for the health care navigators program, ARP also expanded access to health insurance coverage and lowered costs for millions of Americans. (To learn more about changes to open enrollment, click here.) That means more North Texans will be able to access affordable insurance for 2022, which promises to improve their health outcomes and keep more money in their pocket.

Ready to enroll for 2022 coverage? Click here to sign up to speak with a health care navigator.

Join Our Push to Get More North Texans Insured

By working to expand health insurance coverage, together we can ensure more of our neighbors can lead happy, healthy lives. We invite you to be part of the change by:

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ABOUT UNITED WAY OF METROPOLITAN DALLAS

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United Way of Metropolitan Dallas is a social change organization that unites the community to create opportunity and access for all North Texans to thrive, challenging the systemic barriers associated with race. Together with our committed change-seekers, we are mobilizing a movement for lasting change, to ensure all our neighbors have access to education, income and health—the building blocks of opportunity. We invite you to Live United and be part of the change right here at home.

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This article was published on: Nov 2, 2021