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A small Madison company is getting a major grant from one of the National Institutes of Health to fund its distinctly entrepreneurial approach to boosting health care access.

My Coverage Plan will receive funding from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities to begin developing an online e-learning system that would provide training materials to people working with low-income patients. The goal, said the company's founder and president Bobby Peterson, is to help anyone from counselors to attorneys better serve people trying to navigate the health care system.

The training would encompass a range of topics, from the Affordable Care Act to disability insurance and COBRA coverage. However, Peterson said that truly learning how to serve low-income patient groups means going beyond just learning the "technical rules."

"You need to understand how to treat people like a human being," he said.

For example, Peterson said it's important to understand context of what a person or family is going through. For someone who is a veteran, or for someone who is pregnant, a health care solution may end up looking very different.

The company is calling the e-learning platform, which would be Wisconsin-specific, GURULZ. While the proof of concept still needs to be developed, Peterson said the program would likely include a "suite of tools" ranging from webinars to fact sheets. The program would also change based on the level of expertise a trainee has.

My Coverage Plan is a for-profit subsidiary of ABC for Health, a nonprofit law firm that's operated in Madison for over 20 years. Much of the money that My Coverage Plan makes, said Peterson, ends up subsidizing the services that ABC provides to people who need help accessing health care.

Depending on the outcome of the proof of concept that the company develops, My Coverage Plan could end up receiving $1.6 million for the project from the national institute.

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Erik Lorenzsonn is the Capital Times' tech and culture reporter. He joined the team in 2016, after having served as an online editor for Wisconsin Public Radio and having written for publications like The Progressive Magazine and The Poughkeepsie Journal.