Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 10 million Americans have gained health coverage.

Saving $2,300 a year on her premium alone. Deductible dropping from $7,500 to $3,000 a year. Signed up at Healthcare.gov.

From whitehouse.gov
Lucy, Sealy, TX

Health Care Blog

  • Alleviating the Burden of Circumstance

    Peter Yang

    Peter Yang is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    I believe that we are all products not only of our choices but also of our circumstances. There is a surprisingly prevalent misconception that people in adverse situations somehow deserve the hardships they face. Working in my community in Georgia, I’ve come to regard that idea as severely misguided; I have met so many hardworking individuals who, despite their best efforts, are trapped in a socioeconomic pit that they cannot dig themselves out of.

    I first became involved in my community as an undergraduate at Emory University, when I saw the incredible impact of volunteerism in the surrounding community. During this time, I met many of the leaders and visionaries of the Asian American community in Georgia. Inspired by these individuals, upon graduation, I moved on to work at the Center for Pan Asian Community Services, where I was tasked with outreach for the Affordable Care Act during the first period of Open Enrollment. Prior to this work, my sole experience with the Affordable Care Act had been learning about its intricacies in a classroom setting. As I learned more about the program and its effect on the communities we serve, I began to see the law as a huge step in the right direction to improve the lives of the individuals that struggled with adverse circumstances.

    Adequate access to health care is an essential part of human society. Some would even argue that it is a human right. Yet, the United States is severely behind the majority of other developed countries in providing that access. Georgia is home to one of the fastest growing populations of immigrants and refugees, and these individuals often lack adequate health insurance coverage. The more I worked with these individuals, the more I saw the human beings whose lives were impacted by the ACA.

    The law has been successful thus far, but we still have more work to do. I am deeply honored to be selected as a Champion of Change but also just as honored that I have had the opportunity to serve these communities by promoting the Affordable Care Act.

    Peter Yang is the Affordable Care Act Program Coordinator at the Center for Pan Asian Community Services.

  • Serious Illness Taught Me the Value of Insurance

    Cecelia Smaha

    Cecelia Smaha is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    I don’t remember driving home from work with the Georgia Department of Labor on November 19, 1999. I had flu-like symptoms and felt awful that day. My housemate was so alarmed when I arrived home that she tried to get me to call an ambulance. I refused because my insurance would not pay for the ambulance if the hospital didn’t admit me. I didn’t think I was that sick, and I couldn’t afford to pay the ambulance fee.

    Blessed by God to have such a caring housemate, I made it through the weekend. But on Monday, I ended up in the hospital in a coma and was placed in the acute intensive care unit. Three weeks later, I awoke from the coma to learn that I’d had a severe E. coli bacterial infection and was lucky to be alive.

    I was in the hospital for seven weeks, but I also had a long period of recuperation to follow that hospital stay. I never gave any thought to the cost of my hospital stay until I got the bill from the hospital. I couldn’t fathom paying almost a quarter of a million dollars! And that bill didn’t even include any of the doctors’ bills nor the aftercare with home nurses. I didn’t have that kind of money. The only thing I owned was my car.

    I was advised not to pay anything until I checked with my insurance company. As it turned out, my insurance paid for everything. Because of residual effects from this illness, I still have medical complications, but my insurance continues to pay. This was a lesson of a lifetime: Everyone needs insurance.

    On December 12, 2001, I was privileged to become an associate of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas South Central Community. In this role, I help provide services to people who are less fortunate, including the economically poor and the less well-educated. When the Affordable Care Act passed, I was jubilant. I saw this as an opportunity to put Mercy into action. I jumped at the chance to help spread information about the ACA through Get Covered America in Georgia.

    I gave my time and energy to helping get the word out at churches, on the streets, and by working 10 hours each week for more than two and a half months at our local Kmart. Through a mutual agreement with Kmart and Get Covered America, I was privileged to do an event at our local Kmart, where I set up a table and greeted customers, explaining the Affordable Care Act to local shoppers. Through these opportunities, I helped make contact with over 2,000 Georgians.

    I look forward to working with Get Covered America again this year. I am also spreading the word about my state’s refusal to expand Medicare, and I’m working to ensure its expansion—because nobody should be left without health insurance.

    Cecelia Smaha is an associate of the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas South Central Community.

  • The Affordable Care Act as Viewed by a Sister of Mercy

    Joan Serda

    Joan Serda is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    As an educator, I know the importance of health care. I’ve always had the privilege of having health insurance, so I’ve never had to worry about paying a medical bill or paying for a prescription. I haven’t had to be concerned about how to pay for the care of a sick child, spouse, or parent.

    In Georgia, there is a lot of poverty, and many people don’t have health insurance. In Bibb County, where I live, there are tens of thousands of young people without health insurance.

    Emergency rooms are not the answer to good health care. They are intended for emergencies. Emergency room visits are time-consuming and should be a last resort. They result in very expensive care and no follow-up. Often, patients don’t improve, and visits simply reoccur.

    The Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction, enabling many to obtain health insurance that they can afford. If children are healthy, they will learn more, and our schools will improve. If adults are healthy, they will be able to work more effectively and help their children grow, be healthy, and contribute to society.

    I know a woman who had a possible cancer but refused to go to the doctor because she couldn’t afford it. But now, through the Affordable Care Act, she was able to get insurance and see a doctor. Another woman I know had insurance through her employer, but coverage through the ACA drastically reduced her premium without sacrificing health insurance coverage.

    As a Sister of Mercy, I vowed to serve the poor, sick, and uneducated. Working with Get Covered America gave me the opportunity to help people become better educated about health coverage. I volunteered for ten hours a week to help people understand the Affordable Care Act. Many people were unaware of the opportunities available, and many had seen and heard false information. Some were fearful of something new and did not understand how health insurance works. Much education is needed, so I will continue as a volunteer for Get Covered America during the upcoming enrollment period.

    Joan Serda is the Assistant Justice Coordinator for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas South Central Community.

  • Miami Dade College Leads with Initiative to Reach Students and Engage Community

    Joe Pena

    Joe Pena is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    Miami Dade College (MDC) is the higher education institution with the largest campus-based enrollment in the United States, serving more than 165,000 students. Under the leadership of its president, Dr. Eduardo J. Padron, the institution has been elevated to national prominence for its innovation, programs of excellence, and service to the community.

    President Padron designated me to coordinate a college-wide initiative to educate students, faculty, and the local community about their options under the Affordable Care Act. I was incredibly motivated to work on this project. Early on, we formed a partnership with Get Covered America, which sparked local community organizations and volunteers to assist with our efforts. We organized a series of successful educational outreach events, including workshops on multiple campuses. These events provided key information and enrollment assistance to all with an interest in signing up for health insurance.

    The informational workshops were held on Saturdays and weeknights in the computer courtyards of four of our campuses stretching across all of Miami-Dade County. Holding these workshops in our computer courtyards allowed the trained assisters to educate the participants, explain the enrollment process, and answer questions directly.

    Although I spearheaded this initiative, it came together as a result of the contributions of many in our institution.  For Miami Dade College, this was an “all hands on deck” project focused on our students and local community. From our College and campus leadership to our administrators to our computer technicians and support staff, we were all motivated to pitch in, educating and assisting others about their health care options. The College District Office of Communications played a key role in announcing our outreach activities, generating media attention, and encouraging all to visit the HealthCare.gov website.

    In the next enrollment period, we plan to once again partner with Get Covered America and the other community organizations to run educational workshops and to engage our communications network. In addition, we are organizing “office hours” on our campuses, allowing students and community members to set up individual enrollment assistance appointments with the trained assisters from the community organizations.

    This MDC initiative is credited with having made a significant impact, improving the access to health care for thousands of residents in Miami-Dade County and throughout South Florida. I am proud to have been a part of this effort and to have been designated a “Champion for Change”.

    Joe Pena is the Director of Federal Relations for Miami Dade College.

  • Promoting Libraries for Affordable Care Act Outreach

    Jamie Markus

    Jamie Markus is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    As the Library Development Manager at the Wyoming State Library, I spend my time creating and coordinating programs that enhance library services offered to our state’s 580,000 residents. The Library Development Office staff manages, promotes, and supports many exciting statewide library projects.

    In July 2013, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the American Library Association, and other partner organizations launched an e-health initiative, asking all types of libraries to support educational and outreach efforts surrounding the Health Insurance Marketplace.  The Library Development Office at the Wyoming State Library took the lead in coordinating with potential partners in Wyoming. 

    As the project progressed, I realized that libraries would become key partners in the outreach effort due to their status as community centers and trusted sources of information. I met and talked with as many organizations as I could find to discuss how Wyoming’s libraries could help to support the efforts of Healthcare Navigators and those working to inform residents about the Affordable Care Act, the Health Insurance Marketplace, and the HealthCare.gov website.

    The Wyoming State Library designed and supplied 15,000 Health Insurance Marketplace handouts to Wyoming libraries, including twenty-three public libraries, seven community college libraries, a tribal college library, and the University of Wyoming libraries. More than 90 library outlets in nearly every major community in the state had the opportunity to provide these handouts to library patrons. 

    I participated in an untold number of meetings, teleconferences, webinars, and email exchanges to promote the idea of using library public meeting spaces and public access computers to those groups involved in educational events and insurance sign-up workshops on the Affordable Care Act and Health Insurance Marketplace. I also coordinated the production of two state-wide webinars and two programs at the 2013 Wyoming Library Association Annual Conference, informing library staff about the Affordable Care Act, the Health Insurance Marketplace, our Wyoming partners, and available resources.

    The demand for information about the Affordable Care Act was high. I was glad to be able to promote libraries as a safe and trusted place for outreach organizations to put residents in touch with the information they wanted and needed.

    Jamie Markus is the Library Development Manager at the Wyoming State Library.

  • Using Partnerships to Reach Into Communities

    Mark LeBeau

    Mark LeBeau is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    In California, tribal governments, tribal health programs, and the California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB) worked together to develop and share educational materials about the Affordable Care Act prior to its passage. Upon enactment of the ACA, CRIHB partnered with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, Oklahoma City Area Inter-Tribal Health Board, and United South and Eastern Tribes to develop tribal-specific educational materials about the legal rights of tribes and American Indian and Alaska Natives (AIANs) under the ACA. These partners each contributed funds to help make this work a reality.

    This program became known as the Tribal Education and Outreach Consortium (TEOC). The people involved in this work became highly knowledgeable about the subject matter and formed a training program called TEOC University, which trained trainers to present the information to tribal communities. This was the first tribal work of this type in the United States, and the TEOC materials have been distributed throughout Indian Country.

    Today, a number of federal and state offices provide these materials. Many of these materials have been reviewed and updated by CRIHB and the other members of TEOC. One of the most well-known programs we’ve helped with has been the National Indian Health Outreach and Education Initiative (NIHOE). This is a partnership between the Indian Health Service (HIS), the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Health Board, and representatives from each of the 12 IHS Areas. The partnership develops consumer-oriented materials to assist AIANs in understanding their opportunities under the ACA. Together, the partners provide local trainings, national marketing tools, and e-resources that clearly explain health reform changes and their impact on tribal communities. CRIHB has presented these materials to tribal governments, Indian health programs, and Indian communities and organizations.

    To ensure the successful roll-out of the ACA in California, CRIHB policy staff have been meeting with state officials on a regular basis.  In addition, CRIHB has reached out to the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) for input in developing successful implementation strategies and tactics.

    These strategies and tactics were incorporated into a proposal developed by CRIHB, which was presented to the state as a necessary and fundable ACA program. Eventually, the state agreed to fund our program. As a result of this work, the Covered California Tribal Community Mobilization program was created and funded at $250,000. The grant designated funds to support implementation of the ACA AIAN provisions and to meet the tribal consultation requirements outlined in federal guidance. While this grant will end in December of 2014, I and the rest of the folks at CRIHB will continue to seek additional financial resources in order to continue to implement this important work for Indian Country.

    Mark LeBeau is Executive Director at the California Rural Indian Health Board.