MNsure Navigators Help Minorities Get Health Insurance

Updated: 03/26/2014 10:39 PM By: Brandi Powell

The deadline to sign up for MNsure is less than a week away.

KSTP is taking a close up look at how minorities in Minnesota are affected by health insurance.

According to the state health department, non-white Minnesotans are less likely to have health insurance. Stats show those disparities in race and ethnicity remained in 2013.

Here's what the most recent stats show: whites make up 6 percent of Minnesota's uninsured; Asians: 13 percent; blacks: approximately 15 percent; Native Americans: 18 percent; and Latinos: 35 percent.

To try to improve these disparities, MNsure launched Community Outreach and Infrastructure Grants.

In October, the state's Department of Human Services granted nearly $4 million to 29 organizations. In a second round it granted more than $800,000 to 12 organizations. Of those, 9 grants were given to organizations serving the African American population; 8 grants for Latinos; six grants for groups serving Native Americans; and four grants to those serving Asian communities. The hope is for these MNsure grantees to reach more than 420,000 people - which includes racial and ethnic minorities - throughout the state.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reporter Brandi Powell took a closer look at what one of the grantee organizations is doing to make sure more people in the African American community have healthcare.

The church is considered a mainstay in many African American communities. KSTP visited St. James AME Church in South Minneapolis. As with many churches across the state, it's now becoming a health-hub of sorts.

The church is hosting MNsure Navigators, with the Stairstep Foundation, which are stepping in to get more blacks signed up for health insurance.

African American churches are the focus for MNsure Navigator TaMica Tody. "It's an amazing feeling. I love helping out our community," she said. A community that has traditionally made up a significant portion of the uninsured.

Stairstep Foundation founder Alfred Babington-Johnson said, "There were all kinds of disconnects, discriminatory practices, redlining if you will, and one thing or another that I think left a legacy of African Americans looking as scants at the basic financial instruments, including healthcare." The Stairstep Foundation is working to change that legacy.

MNsure Navigator Marcus Mays said, "People can identify with me, and they know that I know them... and they know me as a person, so they're more willing to take a chance (to sign-up for health insurance)."

Champlin resident David Johnson signed up for MNsure. He's a self-employed husband and father of five. "When you start looking at the numbers, especially with a large family like ours, you have to budget everything, and everything is a number game around here, especially in this house." Johnson found MNsure was the affordable option.

The Stairstep Foundation's goal is to get more blacks proactive versus reactive with their health. "Going to emergency rooms for healthcare is not the soundest strategic approach to healthcare we need to be in preventative mode (for a stronger future)."

MNsure Navigators say they're in crunch time right now. The deadline is March 31 to sign up for MNsure. They say the good news is they're busy with people signing up.