Organizers explain options to sign up for health insurance coverage
By John D. Oravecz
Published: Monday, Oct. 28, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
People struggling with the problematic online access to the federal health insurance marketplace have alternative ways to sign up, a field organizer for a national group told churchgoers on Sunday.
Several dozen members of Second United Presbyterian Church in Wilkinsburg listened as Gabby Jones-Casey talked about getting help from health centers and toll-free calls during a weekend of outreach by 150 organizers in 10 states, leaders said.
Jones-Casey is one of three in Pittsburgh for a campaign called Get Covered America, which encourages the uninsured to sign up. Despite problems with the Web portal HealthCare.gov, there are alternatives that work, she said.
“Our campaign is about education and outreach,” Jones-Casey said after the service. “We will direct you to a certified application counselor or a navigator” who can help individuals apply and shop for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Consumers must apply for coverage by a Dec. 15 deadline that will put insurance in effect on Jan. 1. Individuals must enroll or draw penalties by March 31.
The campaign is run by Enroll America, a Washington-based nonprofit coalition of health care providers and advocates. It is running the multimillion-dollar campaign using social media, paid advertising and grass-roots organizing to encourage people to sign up, Anne Filipic, a former Obama administration official who is president of the organization, has said.
Enroll America raised tens of millions to support its work from charities, hospitals and insurance companies, said national spokesman Justin Nisly, who added that it pledges to release details by year's end.
Bill England, state director in Philadelphia, said organizers and volunteers worked on Saturday and Sunday to meet people and provide information.
“We've never tried anything like this in America,” England said of the law, commonly called Obamacare. “We want to reach as many consumers as we can.”
The Rev. Deborah Warren said it was worthwhile for Jones-Casey to speak to members, but Sunday's attendees were mostly older and have health insurance coverage.
“We want to reach our younger, food pantry clients and others,” Warren said, so Jones-Casey will return next month.
Jones-Casey, 26, of Lawrenceville said she started work on the campaign in August when she got a master's degree in social work and community organizing from the University of Pittsburgh in April. She is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y.
She talked to more than 100 people on Saturday at an Urban League-sponsored job fair in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, an event in the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers offices in the South Side, and by canvassing on the street in Lawrenceville. She said she talked to 31 who were not insured.
Enrollment services are available at 10 health centers in Allegheny County and from “navigators” under a program run by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit. Two full-time and two part-time navigators are in place, and more are being trained, she said.
People can call the marketplace — 800-318-2596 — and talk to staffers who will help them understand, enroll and choose plans that suit their financial circumstances.
John D. Oravecz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7882 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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