— Meeri Kim
Page 2 of 2
— Meeri Kim
People turned away or unaware
Leslie Rodriguez, an in-person counselor hired by the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood, said people called all day looking to enroll but were turned away because the Web site was down.
“They’re a little upset . . . but we’re just making appointments for them later in the week,” she said. The center, in a low-income community where many lack insurance, has been doing outreach workshops about Medicaid expansion and the exchanges.
“In this community, people are more interested in the expansion of Medicaid than the exchanges, but we have been getting both,” she added.
At the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County emergency waiting room and the affiliated Fantus outpatient clinic serving uninsured people in Chicago, only one of two dozen patients interviewed had heard about the insurance marketplace.
“I don’t have work. How am I going to pay for insurance?” asked George Garcia, 40, an unemployed construction worker. “Obama has a job; he can buy insurance. A lot of people don’t have jobs.”
James Bell, 50, has been unemployed and without insurance since he lost his job as a chef at Loyola University seven years ago. He hadn’t heard about the Affordable Care Act because “I don’t even watch TV; worrying about stuff just messes you up.”
At CommunityHealth Chicago on the west side, Robert Mendez, 30, wants insurance and plans to research the exchange. He just graduated from DePaul University and is a personal trainer but has been unemployed for two years.
“I think everyone should have health care, but I can see why some people would be against a requirement for insurance. I’m on the fence about it,” he said. “I definitely think I need it; I just want to feel comfortable.”
— Kari Lydersen
Web site problems snarl access
Carlos Flores, 65, of Woodbridge, Va., heard about the exchanges on TV and made sure to be there the very first day possible to sign up. He’s worried for his wife, Maria Lopez, 59. She was hospitalized twice for depression recently, and her treatment is very expensive.
Katty Aponte-Cardenas, one of four patient-care coordinators at Greater Prince William Community Health Center trained to enroll patients, explained to them in Spanish that the Web site was still down shortly before noon Tuesday (”No funciona,” she said, gesturing toward her computer) and that they would need to fill out paperwork and wait to find out if they qualify. They made an appointment to follow up next week.
Flores came to the United States from Honduras in 1984 and had been working as a painter for a home-improvement company when he had to have heart surgery. Two weeks after he left the hospital, he was laid off, he said, so he no longer has health insurance.
Aponte-Cardenas asked if they had questions.
“Es para Medicaid?” Lopez asked. Aponte-Cardenas explained that when the Web site was functioning, they would be able to find out what they qualify for based on their income level.
Flores said he was grateful for the new opportunity but that it would be wonderful if he could apply Tuesday and have insurance Wednesday, not wait until January.
He wasn’t worried about the Web site being down temporarily. “It’s not a problem for me now,” he added, “but if it doesn’t come up soon, it will be a big problem not only for me, but for a lot of people.”
“I’m grateful that they can help us,” he said.
— Susan Svrluga