Shifting Trends in Health Coverage among Milwaukee County Residents

While health insurance Marketplace enrollments have declined, the Milwaukee Enrollment Network (MKEN)’s April coverage report shows that BadgerCare Plus (Medicaid) enrollment for childless adults in Milwaukee county has been steadily increasing since September.

In the most recent open enrollment period for the health insurance Marketplace, 33,454 Milwaukee county residents signed up for Marketplace coverage in 2018, resulting a 12.8% decline from the previous year.

Marketplace Challenges

“We continue to analyze Marketplace and Medicaid data to better understand what factors are driving the shift in coverage in Milwaukee county,” says Caroline Gomez-Tom, MKEN program manager.  “We know that consumers were affected by confusing and last-minute changes to the health insurance Marketplace last year, for which the open enrollment period was reduced to only six weeks.  Interestingly, although there were fewer Marketplace enrollments than 2017, most consumers actively shopped for plans, including 8,794 new enrollees.”

In addition to the shortened open enrollment period, the withdrawal of Molina from the health insurance Marketplace impacted about 18,000 customers in the Milwaukee area who needed to find a different health plan for coverage in 2018. Qualified health plans providing Marketplace coverage in Milwaukee are Common Ground Health Cooperative, Network Health, and Together with CCHP.

Medicaid Uptick

Following the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the number of childless adults covered by BadgerCare Plus decreased significantly.  But, starting in September 2017, enrollment has been growing incrementally, with 49,160 childless adults covered as of March 2018, for a total of 313,232 Medicaid enrollees overall.  Currently, a third of Milwaukee county residents (33.1%), and half of all children (46.9%) are enrolled in a Medicaid program.

Enrollment Outreach

In the 2017 open enrollment period, CMS provided limited outreach through, and no enrollment advertising.  “We are very grateful to the foundations, qualified health plans and Medicaid plans, who with the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership, helped increase marketing investments in radio, public transit, outdoor and digital advertising,” said the Partnership’s executive director, Joy Tapper.

Contributors to the MKEN’s outreach efforts include the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, City of Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services, Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, Network Health, iCare, Together with CCHCP, and UnitedHealthcare Wisconsin.

The MKEN tracks the efforts of more than 150 enrollment assisters, agents, and brokers who provide outreach, education and help to consumers looking for health insurance.  More than 12,800 consumers were served by its members’ enrollment assisters during the 2017 open enrollment period, not including those who were also supported by insurance agents or directly by health plans.

The Milwaukee Enrollment Network is a public/private consortium of nearly 100 organizations working together to support the enrollment of eligible individuals in public and private insurance, with a focus on low-income populations in Milwaukee county.  For more information about Milwaukee county’s insured and uninsured populations, see the MKEN’s quarterly Coverage Report.