This is a guest post by Megan Sheeran. Garden City, Mich. is one of eight cities NLC has awarded funding to reduce the number of uninsured children.
Our nation thrives when the health of its smaller communities is good. Access to health insurance for vulnerable populations, importantly children and families, is crucial in securing a better future for us all. The city of Garden City is well aware of what makes a great community and has committed to strengthening its resident’s awareness and enrollment in Michigan’s low cost or no cost insurance programs.
Garden City, MI: In a Nutshell
Garden City is a small city with a lot of heart located in southeast Michigan, just a 30 minute drive from downtown Detroit. Its residents are hard working and service-oriented people. The city’s community leaders are always working hard to meet the needs of those people living within the city limits and beyond. As the city’s motto states, it’s “A Great Place To Call Home”.
Getting a Plan in Motion
Garden City is one of the eight cities awarded the National League of Cities grant and technical assistance to support the city leader’s efforts to educate and enroll those residents that are eligible for low cost or no cost health insurance.
A Task Force, made up of community leaders, was organized to carry out the planning phase of the healthcare initiative named the Healthy Kids-Happy Families Project. Numerous community leaders signed on to be involved with the project including representatives from the school district, the local hospital, and the city government. The Task Force is a shining example of the commitment and passion this community’s leaders have for the well-being of those residing in their city.
The goal of the Healthy Kids-Happy Families Project is to enroll 100% of Garden City children and adults who are eligible for the Healthy Michigan insurance program but are not currently insured. During the preliminary stage of program development, it was found that 10% of children in the city were uninsured and eligible for Healthy Michigan (roughly 633 children!). Clearly, this number doesn’t include the many parents and family members that are also uninsured but are eligible for a Healthy Michigan plan. It has been estimated that a large percentage of the city’s population will be positively influenced by this project.
Meeting the Significant Healthcare Need in the City: A Two-Pronged Approach
Healthy Kids-Happy Families Project is to increase awareness and knowledge of the Healthy Michigan, the state’s low cost or no cost insurance program. Majority of residents surveyed during the planning process reported the reason they were not signed up for Healthy Michigan was due to the complicated and time-consuming process of enrolling. It was important for the initiative to incorporate an educational dimension; therefore the residents of Garden City would be informed about their potential eligibility for Healthy Michigan, the potential benefits this would offer to their individual families and how simple it can be to enroll.
The Project will offer enrollment assistance to those residents who qualify for the Healthy Michigan insurance program. The key to this enrollment assistance is that it be offered by trusted community members in trusted community locations such as in schools, the community center, and at the local hospital. A new city department, the Community Resource Department (CRD), will carry out the day-to-day workings of the project. City staff and volunteer community members will be the “boots on the ground”, going out into the community and offering one-on-one personal assistance to adults and parents during the application process.
The Project will be in operation year round, apart from the initial campaign, to offer those individuals who have enrolled continuous form assistance and help with choosing a healthcare plan, select a local primary care physician and schedule their first well visit appointment. It is crucial that these families and individuals do not fall through the cracks once they are found to be eligible for Healthy Michigan.
Increasing Health Insurance Coverage in Garden City: The Benefits
According to the National Center of Children in Poverty, children have higher health-related school absentee rates, affecting educational attainment and future employability (Present, Engage, and Accounted For: The Critical Importance of Addressing Chronic Absence in the Early Grades, 2008). Parents of these children experience the challenges of coping with an ill child; employee absenteeism to be home with a sick child that causes lost wages and negatively impacts a parent’s ability to maintain consistent employment (C. Teng, Citispeak.org, 2013). The Health Kids-Happy Families project will reduce the number of uninsured children in the city, thereby improving school attendance and educational attainment; preventing their parents’ from the threat of falling into a debilitating financial crisis.
In addition, the local hospital is currently challenged with a high rate of Emergency Room visits by uninsured families for non-emergency issues; majority of these visits go unpaid, causing tremendous financial burden on the hospital. Also, when the Emergency Room is busy with non-emergency issues, true emergency treatment is often delayed. Reducing non-emergency use of the Emergency Room will benefit the community greatly, financially and otherwise.
Garden City: Setting a Course to Thrive!
The City of Garden City’s Healthy Kids-Happy Families project is going to enrich its community immensely. Being an example to other communities of what can happen when city leaders come together for the sole purpose of cultivating healthier outcomes for families and individuals and in doing so enriching the nation as a whole.
About the author: Megan Sheeran is a limited licensed Master of Social Work and is a recent graduate of the University of Michigan’s School of Social Work. She recently returned to the City of Garden City as the Community Resource Coordinator and will be organizing the day-to-day tasks for the Healthy Kids-Happy Families Project as well as coordinating many other community support program.