Every day at the School of Human Ecology (SoHE), interdisciplinary teams of economists, designers and psychologists are working across the Badger State to strengthen families and communities. With funding from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment, the SoHE is embarking on a major initiative to empower consumers on effective selection and use of health insurance to improve their financial and physical well-being.
We see the challenge: Health Insurance Literacy
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and changes to Badger Care Plus (BC+) present individuals and families with both opportunities and challenges. With a few exceptions, the ACA requires everyone to have health insurance or face a potential fine. An estimated 500,000 currently uninsured state residents can now purchase health insurance via the Marketplace. This major change is further complicated by significant changes to BC+ eligibility rules: as of April 2014, 80,000 parents and caretakers will no longer be eligible while the same number of childless adults will be newly eligible. Those losing BC+ coverage are being re-directed to the ACA Marketplace, a new and evolving online mechanism. In total , around 700,000 Wisconsin residents are being impacted by new health coverage rules this year alone. Yet many people don’t understand how insurance works. Right now more 83% of Medicaid-eligible adults are confused by basic health insurance concepts such as premiums, deductibles, co payments, co-insurance and maximum out-of pocket costs. The financial considerations of insurance coverage selection and actual costs to the consumer are more complex than is often portrayed (e.g., preventive care may not always be free, and affordability is not based solely on monthly premiums). And because many health coverage decisions depend heavily on federal tax filing status, many may have never before filed federal taxes.
We see a better way:Empower Consumers
Harnessing the expertise of Covering Kids&Families-Wisconsin(CKF) and the Center for Financial Security (CFS)-both at UW-Madison–the team will leverage CKF’s existing ACA and BC+knowledge,adult education experience, combined with CFS’s financial literacy expertise to meet this widespread and unmet consumer need. CKF and CFS will conduct an education campaign to build consumer health insurance literacy, particularly among those newly ACA or BC+ eligible.
Molly Bandt, JD, joined Covering Kids & Families Wisconsin in 2013. Molly comes with a background in training and legal service, helping people and organizations understand and access legal rights for the elderly, people with disabilities and employees. She earned her JD from UW Madison and has a distinguished career with advocacy and state agencies.
Michael Collins is faculty director of the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is a faculty affiliate of the Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, the Institute for Research on Poverty, and the La Follette School of Public Affairs. Collins studies consumer decision-making in the financial marketplace, including the role of public policy in influencing credit, savings and investment choices. His work includes the study of financial capability with a focus on low-income families.