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Guest Contributor: Stephani Becker
Health and Disability Advocates
Editor's Note: We're only 3 months away from open enrollment set to begin on October 1st and this month's thought leadership article comes from Health and Disability Advocates (HDA), a national organization based in Chicago which focuses on policy and advocacy issues around healthcare.
Enrollment into the new Health Insurance Marketplaces established by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will open in less than 100 days. However, many Americans don't know what's coming: Kaiser Family Foundation's recent poll showed that 4 out of 10 people were unaware that the Affordable Care Act was still law. The poll also found that those most likely to benefit from the ACA know even less. And it's no surprise people have high levels of skepticism about the law. Negative experiences trying to get health insurance frame their expectations.
This type of confusion or lack of awareness is bound to be felt even more profoundly by limited English speakers. Many limited English speakers are legal permanent residents or U.S. citizens - and therefore are eligible for the Marketplace and Medicaid. But, they are not aware of the changes ahead. To address this wide information gap, Health & Disability Advocates (HDA) has been partnering with the Asian Health Coalition for the past two years to develop and provide expert targeted information and training on the ACA to community based providers who serve primarily low income uninsured limited English speaking populations.
Our experience has shown that providing expert assistance to community based providers through in person training and targeted materials works to increase coverage and access to health care for limited English speaking consumers. Through trainings and presentations, community based providers are made aware of health care coverage options for their clients; how to access these coverage options; how to assess eligibility; how to explain the importance of coverage; how a coordinated delivery system works and other vital topics. The providers are then empowered to help their consumers access coverage and services and, importantly, can rely on a robust backup system of technical assistance and individual assistance at HDA when a consumer needs advocacy to be able to access what they need.
Through in person events and translated presentations, we trained a large community of providers in the Lao community in Elgin on the options in the Affordable Care Act to access coverage and services. In turn, these service providers, which included local community leaders, small business owners, insurance agents, area agency on aging and child care agencies, among others, were then able to bring this information to their constituencies. We then regularly checked in with the leadership to ensure that they had the tools they needed to get the word out
and actually help people access services.
We have also developed several fact sheets and presentations jointly with AHC on the Affordable Care Act and its impact on limited English speaking populations with topics around the new Medicaid expansion, no-cost preventative care services, coverage of behavioral health and domestic violence screenings, dependent coverage up to age 26 and the new insurance Marketplace. These materials were specifically written in a culturally competent and linguistically appropriate manner to convey complex concepts directly to consumers. All of the materials were translated into the language spoken in the community including Chinese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Lao and Nepali.
All of these materials, presentations, and ongoing events can be found along with data on the uninsured in Illinois including where they live, ethnicity, age, income and veteran status at: www.illinoishealthmatters.org.
Also, see some of the media coverage on our project here: Illinois nonprofits take lead on health
overhaul & Myriad languages, cultures challenge health reform. With less than three months to go, we are gearing up for open enrollment and look forward to our continued work with AHC to reach their constituents. Stay connected with us - ask us a question about health care reform and we'll answer it for you; friend us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or sign up for our monthly e-newsletter. October 1 will be here before you know it.
Health & Disability Advocates