On Dec. 9, Loretto Hospital Clergy Council, Ald. Deborah Graham (29th) and state Rep. Camille Lilly (78th) hosted a three-hour health insurance enrollment kickoff.
It was the third enrollment event at Loretto Hospital since the Oct. 1 launch of the state health care exchanges, where individuals can compare and shop for health insurance coverage with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
The event at Loretto Hospital, 645 S. Central Ave., featured counselors from five different West Side organizations, who worked one-on-one to assist patrons and answer questions regarding signing up for the exchanges.
A week prior, Loretto Hospital reached out to local organizations and faith-based institutions to inform their members about the event.
Chester Jackson, pastor at New Kingdom Church, says that the effort allowed the hospital to assist in the effort to inform West Siders of the ongoing enrollment.
“We felt that the best way to impact the enrollment effort would be to reach out to the churches who have a solid relationship with their congregations,” said Jackson. “We have reached out to many institutions to work with us to encourage their parishioners toward action on this issue.”
When asked about the ongoing struggles for visitors of the health care exchange website, Jackson added that the timing for the event was a means for limiting some of the issues that individuals have faced.
“The login times from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. have been much more favorable to visitors than those from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., because that’s when the site faces the least amount of traffic,” Jackson said. “While the site still has kinks to work out, it should not discourage people from visiting the website to see what policies they qualify for.”
The West Side Health Authority, Near North Health and Ada McKinley Community Services were among the organizations in attendance with vendors to help register patrons.
“Our goal is the same,” said Lilly. “We intend to register 300 people to the exchanges by Dec. 23. We have two weeks to reach that goal and remain steadfast to accomplish it. People need to know they have options regarding their healthcare that they never had before.”
The significance of the Dec. 23 deadline revolves around the fact that it is the last day that individuals can register for the exchanges and see their benefits available by Jan 1.
“Our window of opportunity is closing fairly quickly,” said Graham. “But we have to keep fighting this fight until the window closes. We want to assure people that regardless of their economic status or health status or employment status, there is a program that can meet their needs in the exchange.”
HealthCare.gov, the website created by the Obama administration to allow visitors to compare policies, faced serious problems following its launch in October.
Shoppers complained about not being able to properly log in, being unable to print out copies of plans after making a decision and being thrown off the site before they completed the purchase of a plan.
However, the site has been improved is now trending in the right direction.
Eva Phillips, an in-person counselor from Habilitative Systems Inc., says that even if shoppers feel that they can maneuver through the website on their own, there are benefits to finding providers to answer questions for them.
“Health care is an extremely complex issue, one that can create two new questions for each one that is answered,” said Phillips. “As a result, people need to be as informed as possible when choosing a plan through the exchange. People need to know that among the changes made to health care is the emphasis on preventative care services. This means that several insurance providers are now required to provide preventative services at no additional cost. This is an important change.”
The two previous events saw a combined 26 people signed up for health insurance through the website.