Moriah Johnson, Community Health Manager, sorts jackets donated to NACC by the Salvation Army and MNDot Credit: Native American Community Clinic

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Department of Health reported significant shifts in the uninsurance rate across the state. The data showed that while the statewide uninsurance rate dropped to a historic low of four percent, the racial coverage gap grew, with 10.2 percent of Indigenous Minnesotans and Minnesotans of color lacking health insurance coverage.

Community organizations across Minnesota have long worked to address this gap in insurance coverage and are doubling down on efforts to reverse this trend. One such organization in the Twin Cities metro area is the Native American Community Clinic (NACC) in Minneapolis.

NACC’s mission is to promote the health and wellness of mind, body, and spirit of Native American families. It offers a full range of healthcare services and approaches healthcare by addressing root causes of health inequities including access to food, housing and health insurance. And those efforts are working – especially when it comes to healthcare coverage.

NACC’s approach

In the two zip codes that NACC serves, the Indigenous uninsurance rate is 10 and 11 percent, respectively. Among NACC clients, the uninsurance rate drops to five percent.

NACC’s success in increasing access to healthcare coverage lies in how they connect community members with health insurance resources. As part of their outreach strategy, they intentionally pair many of their open enrollment efforts with their community drives, especially boot and coat drives in the winter. At these events, NACC ensures that their MNsure-certified navigators are available to help community members navigate healthcare coverage options and assist with the enrollment and renewal processes.

NACC held their first winter gear drive of the season last week, which resulted in 50 community members being offered enrollment assistance.

“Our clinic is rooted in honoring tradition and health, and in seeking to decrease the health inequities facing Native American families in the Twin Cities,” said Dr. Antony Stately, executive officer and president of Native American Community Clinic. “We’ve seen success in increasing access to healthcare coverage because of the mission and values our organization was founded on, and because of the deep relationships and trust we’ve built within the community. Our relatives know that they are deeply cared for through our range of healthcare services, resource navigation, care coordination and outreach.”

Hats and glove sets given away at recent winter gear drive. Photo credit: Native American Community Clinic

NACC’s innovative approach can be a model for other organizations seeking to have similar impacts, and it is supported by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Foundation as part of their efforts to increase healthcare coverage across Minnesota.

Connection between access to coverage and health

Research shows that uninsured people are far more likely than those with insurance to delay healthcare – or go without it entirely. The effects on uninsured individuals can be devastating, particularly when preventable or life-threatening conditions are left untreated, or chronic diseases undetected.

“The greatest opportunity to reverse the trend of rising uninsured rates is to support organizations that are embedded in the communities that face the greatest need,” said Bukata Hayes, chair of the Blue Cross Foundation board of directors, and vice president of racial and health equity and chief equity officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. “The work that NACC is doing is a perfect example of the power of community. Community holds the answers and the solutions, and we are proud to support and amplify these efforts so all Minnesotans have access to coverage and care that is timely, affordable and culturally concordant.”

Through its Access to Coverage program, the Blue Cross Foundation partners with nonprofits like NACC across the state to help people who are eligible for public program coverage under Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare. The Access to Coverage program is part of a broader strategy within the Foundation, which seeks to increase healthcare coverage across Minnesota, build capacity in grantee organizations and increase awareness about the communities in Minnesota most impacted by a lack of healthcare access.

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