U.S. Congressman Andre Carson accompanied U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell on a tour of the United Way building and services in Indianapolis Friday. More importantly they talked with Hoosiers who have benefitted from the Affordable Care Act.
According to Burwell, hearing the personal stories from people about the ACA helps her office improve the program as well as encourage others to sign up for coverage.
“As a follow up to the State of the Union, one of the things the president’s cabinet is doing is going all over the country to have real conversations with real people about the issues that our departments have worked on,” said Burwell. “As a law it was about three fundamental things — access, affordability and quality — and changing that dynamic for everyone in the country.”
Each story painted a different picture of need and access, but the underlying theme was the same — the Affordable Care Act offers financial and health security to people in need of medical care. One consumer described a situation that included a loss of employment coupled with a pre-existing condition that made acquiring affordable health insurance nearly impossible. Another self-employed woman described an $800 savings in monthly premiums for her family of three. A minister discussed how having options in the marketplace helped him and his congregation save thousands on his annual health insurance premiums. And one college student working on her undergraduate degree stated it was nice to know she was still covered under her parents’ insurance until she turns 26. She added that she really didn’t fully understand how important health insurance was or the benefits of being covered under her parents’ policies until she became a navigator helping others learn and understand their options in the marketplace.
It may have been a coincidence that all of the people discussing their personal stories were Caucasian and that eight of the nine participants were female. But the observation did make Carson’s question about how to encourage more people to take advantage of the opportunity even more poignant.
The conversation supported the idea that the terminology and overall issue of health insurance is intimidating, especially for someone who has never had it before. But the group also agreed that the assistance provided by the navigators is more than enough to overcome most obstacles. Ultimately they determine it comes down to awareness — something the United Way of Central Indiana also works to overcome.
Part of Carson and Burwell’s visit included a little time spent in the 2-1-1 “connect-2-help” call center hub. The 2-1-1 system is an information call center that Hoosiers can reach out for any type of assistance. The information and referral hotline maintains a centralized database of over 20,000 programs and services. And while a caller may inquire about rent assistance, veterans’ benefits or legal assistance, call center specialists are also trained to ask callers if they have health insurance. If the answer is no, the offer is made for them to walk through a simple pre-screening to determine if they might be eligible for HIP 2.0 — Indiana’s alternative to Medicare — or if options are available for them in the healthcare marketplace.
“I’m proud of my vote,” says Carson about his support of the ACA. “And I want to encourage Hoosiers who haven’t done so to get enrolled.”
The deadline for enrollment is January 31.