Creating Healthy Futures for Americans: Insurance is key to that process!

As an AmeriCorps Member in Philadelphia, PA with the Philadelphia Health Corps, I am serving as a Health and Benefits Advocate at Eleventh St. Family Health Services of Drexel University, a Nurse Managed Healthcare Center (NMHCC) in North Philadelphia. I am also certified through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to help consumers apply for insurance on the new health insurance marketplace. This year happens to be the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps so in the spirit of spreading information about my experience with the Philadelphia Health Corps, I would like to speak briefly about my experience engaging with patients on the new health insurance marketplace.

Now, before I jump into that, let me first say that for many of the patients I interact with at Eleventh St., living at or below the poverty level (about $972 a month for a single individual) and living without insurance is the norm. As a member of the Philadelphia Health Corps, I have been able to aid in shifting the status quo in the community surrounding my host site. In October, the Marketplace opened up and although it started off pretty shakily, the health insurance marketplace is now strutting its stuff as if it has been up and running for years. Prior to October, if you were sick enough—with one of the chronic diseases currently plaguing America i.e. heart disease, diabetes, or cancer, you were eligible for free state-based Medicaid. If you made below $205 a month, the state would give you coverage to take care of less threatening illnesses, such as asthma and high blood pressure. If you were a patient who was slightly above the poverty level, I was able to help you become insured if and only if one of the Nurse Practitioners on site wanted you to follow up with a specialist and/or agreed to fill out a form saying that your present health conditions were serious enough to be considered a temporary disability. Healthy patients living below the poverty level or slightly above the poverty level, excluding pregnant women and children, were out of luck when it came to acquiring health insurance coverage. Since October 1st, more than 2 million Americans have enrolled in health insurance through the Marketplace, including many of the healthy individuals who frequent Eleventh St. 

I have been able to help patients get insurance coverage for as little as 30 cents a month! When was the last time you bought anything for a quarter and a nickel? Affordable health care is even more affordable than the name Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) suggests—at least from a consumer standpoint.

And that brings me to my next point: the cost of treating people with chronic diseases is mind-boggling and the presence of these diseases is astounding. As a member of the Philadelphia Health Corps, there is not a day that goes by in which I do not meet a patient with diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension. The government is spending money up front to lower the costs of the sick later. They are helping to insure Americans to ensure a more vital and more productive workforce. As part of the Philadelphia Health Corps, I am an instrumental part of the push to get Americans insured.

In the spirit of the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps and creating a Healthy Future for Americans, don’t forget to keep an eye out for service events around your community.

This post was written by PHC member Kwame Quaye.
Kwame serves at the Family Practices and Counseling Network - 11th Street as a Health and Benefits Advocate.