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As Deadline Looms, ACA Enrollments Pick Up

Neighborhood “navigators” are out in force this week as many Americans face a March 31 deadline for enrollment in new health insurance programs under the Affordable Care Act.

LISC’s 21 neighborhood-based partner organizations have already helped residents complete more than 1,881 applications. But hundreds more are likely to be processed in the coming days to beat the deadline for open enrollment. Those who qualify for Medicaid can continue to sign up anytime, but most others will have to wait until November to enroll if they aren’t in the online system by Monday, March 31. They may also face a tax penalty.

Navigators canvassed CTA stations earlier this winter.

Gordon Walek

“In the last couple of months we’ve seen a real uptick in interest among residents,” said LISC Program Officer Dominique Williams during a March 10 radio interview with WVON’s Perri Small. “People are coming out to meet with navigators and to find out what they need to do to get covered.”

Williams said many people don’t understand all the details of the health insurance law, or the benefits that come with it. She said 75 percent of residents in LISC-served communities are likely to qualify for some sort of subsidy; if their income is low, there’s a good chance of coverage at no cost. Also, insurance can no longer be denied for pre-existing conditions, and there are new benefits specifically for women, including free preventive care, breastfeeding support services, and birth control at no cost.

But it’s a complicated enrollment process because of the detailed eligibility criteria and the many plans available, which is why navigators are standing by. “We don’t want people to feel overwhelmed,” said Williams. “That’s what navigators are for. You shouldn’t assume you’re not eligible or you don’t qualify. Come in and meet with someone, and let us see if we can get you enrolled.”

Navigators at an early-March meeting shared stories about their recent successes, including: enrollment of a young man who hadn’t been to the doctor for nine years; getting a Medicaid card for a 20-year-old college student; enrollment of a man who had a stroke and been sent to the hospital without insurance; getting Medicare for a 70-year-old with a brain tumor; and connecting a newly unemployed family to the marketplace.

“One of many successes this week was enrolling a lady who had not seen a doctor in seven years,” said Angela Thomas of St. Sabina Employment Resource Center in Auburn Gresham. “We got her enrolled, and everybody seems to cry and hug when we do that.”

LISC’s partner agencies are listed on this map. Other navigators throughout the city can be found at or by calling 1-866-311-1119.

Other recent media coverage of LISC’s health insurance work was in the Sunday Sun-Times, March 23, 2013.

Posted in Financial Opportunities, Health, General news


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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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