Reaching AAPIs Regionally: Discussing the Affordable Care Act in Illinois

Federal Officials and Community Leaders Discuss ACA AAPI Specifics

Federal officials and community leaders convene in Chicago during the Regional Interagency Working Group Region 5 roundtable to discuss successes and challenges facing AAPIs with the Affordable Care Act February 11, 2014. (by South Asian American Policy & Research Institute)

The Region 5 Regional Interagency Working Group (RIWG) of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) partnered with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the State of Illinois to host a Health Care Roundtable in February. Panel presenters from federal, state, and community sectors discussed the latest updates, successes, and challenges regarding enrollment initiatives under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The roundtable was a unique convening of federal and state leaders, in-person counselors, navigators, and others on the frontlines of health care access issues in Chicago’s AAPI community, including event co-sponsors South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI) and Asian Health Coalition (AHC).

Participants were given an overview of the Chicago area’s AAPI population, a rapidly growing group that faces unique health disparities. AAPIs are the fastest growing racial group in Illinois, with Indian Americans as the largest subgroup.  Representatives from community-based organizations discussed successful outreach and enrollment strategies. They shared anecdotal examples of effectively connecting with Asian and other immigrant communities, including outreach at religious institutions and social events in collaboration with key leaders who have strong relationships with ethnic communities.

Community advocates detailed the enrollment challenges and discussed potential solutions with federal representatives. For example, WHIAAPI provided ideas of private-public partnerships that may support the efforts of the community organizations that are often the best point of contact for AAPI applicants. Participants suggested that language assistance resources used in the Health Insurance Marketplace call center should also be made available in the identity verification process, to assist applicants with limited English proficiency.

As the March 31 open enrollment deadline approaches, this regional roundtable provided a critical forum for agencies and community leaders to share successful strategies, describe challenges, and formulate solutions. For those who would like to apply for health coverage through the Marketplace, there are four basic ways to apply. Besides going online, you can use a paper application, visit a trained assistor in your community, or call our Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 to apply and enroll over the phone. Learn more about how to enroll.

Following the roundtable, the RIWG members provided resources for participants to access additional information about federal government programs. The community leaders appreciated the opportunity to explain their concerns directly to state and federal officials. We look forward to building off this event and continue these candid conversations between federal officials and the AAPI community in the Chicago region.

Doug Nguyen is the Deputy Regional Communications Director for the Social Security Administration in Region 5. He is also a member of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ Regional Interagency Working Group.

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