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First meetings on Wisconsin's health-exchanges today

UNDATED (WSAU-Wheeler News)   State officials will hold their first meetings today with those who want to help people sign up for the new insurance purchasing exchanges under the Obama health law. The state Health Services Department helped organize the sessions, the first of which will be in Middleton and Green Bay.

Just over a half-million uninsured Wisconsinites can start applying October first for health coverage in the new exchanges. The coverage begins January first.

State Medicaid director Brett Davis expects thousands of people to help get the uninsured signed up – even though the state only has about one-tenth of the funding as neighboring Minnesota for so-called “navigators” to help people go through the new maze of options. The Gopher State was among 16 to set up their own state government exchanges, instead of taking a federal template like Wisconsin did.

Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation said the states with their own exchanges have nearly unlimited funds to help people deal with them – while an unexpectedly-high 34 states are sharing a smaller pot. Wisconsin insurance officials say it should not be a problem. They’ll count on private agents and brokers to explain the various options to people. Wisconsin received about a million federal dollars for its navigators. Community health centers around the state got another $1.8-million for the same purpose.