Chicago Family Health Center has busily been signing up patients for health insurance. Each Saturday, we’ve been hosting Affordable Care Act Enrollment Fairs.
The first one was November 16.
After seeing my patients in clinic that morning—including two who had previously been uninsured, now covered through the Cook County early Medicaid expansion called County Care—I headed upstairs to the fair to see how local enrollment in the contentious exchanges was shaping up.
I found an orderly though bustling room staffed primarily by college students trained as patient navigators, wearing blue tee shirts marking their affiliation with the organization Health Leads.
Different tables were set up to lead patients through the exchange sign up process.
All patients were asked to show up with the paperwork needed to complete the application process:
1. Proof of US Citizenship or legal residency.
2. Proof of State residency
3. Income of all family members
4. Current Health insurance (if they have it)
Then they were given a questionnaire. The questions were simple.
Do you currently have insurance?
Are you a US citizen or an eligible immigrant?
What is your age?
What is your annual income?
Do you live in Cook County and make less than $15,856 individually, or $32,500 for a family of four?
The insurance eligibility questionnaire doubled as an All Benefits Eligibility (ABE) application, so that as patients completed the questionnaire with the patient navigators, they immediately found out if they qualified for food stamps or heating assistance along with health insurance.
Depending on the answers, they were funneled to different insurance options:
Medicaid (All Kids/Medicaid/County Care) enrolled/pending
Referred to Medicare
Marketplace insurance enrolled/pending
Sliding scale renewal (for non-US citizens)
If they qualified for All Kids, Medicaid or County Care, they were enrolled the same day. If they qualified for insurance through healthcare.gov, they filled out paper applications, to be sent in to be processed by hand.
December 15 was the deadline to enroll for coverage to begin January 1. Now with the sadly mucked up roll out of the federal exchanges, the deadline has been extended to December 23.
The process is not difficult. So many of my previously uninsured patients are now already covered through County Care, getting the medicines they need. At the health fair, I saw three of my patients–husband, wife and teenage son–waiting to get their coverage. More uninsured patients will soon be covered through the exchanges.
Health insurance for all is on its way to becoming a reality.
Health access for all is our next difficult step. Will there be enough primary care practices staffed with enough health professionals to meet our nation’s healthcare needs?