This is a guest post by Lynn Borup, executive director of the Tri-County Health Network and a CCMU board member. She works to improve the quality and coordination of health and health care services in rural southwestern Colorado by increasing access to care and integrative health services at lower costs through collaboration and innovation.
I don’t consider myself patriotic. Don’t get me wrong—I love our country and am thankful everyday that I was born in the USA. I fly my flag on Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July, but that pretty much sums up my engagement. Needless to say, I was caught off guard when an overwhelming feeling of patriotism surged through me on November 7.
It was on that Friday that I joined a national call with none other than President Barack Obama. When I received the email invitation to participate in this Open Enrollment kick-off call, the cynic in me immediately took control as I accepted the invite to this “big event.” I set my expectations low, as I was sure either the President would coincidentally have a schedule conflict and not be able to attend or at best we’d hear a recorded message from him thanking us for helping more than eight million Americans enroll in health insurance through the marketplace in 2014.
Our small team gathered in my office for the call. After a slight delay, we were greeted by a White House spokesperson (of course…) who thanked us for calling and shared some enrollment statistics. I settled in to check some emails, but then there was a brief silence, and—sure enough—the President of the United States was addressing us—live, in real time. OMG!
It wasn’t just a canned speech, either—the President reached through the phone line to motivate, inspire, and challenge all 61,000 of us Health Coverage Guides listening in. He urged us to continue to educate and assist our communities in understanding the Affordable Care Act, the benefits of purchasing insurance through the marketplace, and in providing enrollment assistance. He reinforced the importance of our role in changing the health care landscape and helping our fellow Americans—we are making history! Not since Medicare and Medicaid legislation was signed into law in 1965 have we undertaken such major health care reform.
In my community, and probably in yours as well, components of the ACA have had a big impact, including ‘guaranteed issue’ for those with pre-existing conditions and subsidies for low-income individuals. Our team has experienced firsthand the impact that enrollment has had on our community members who have never been insured, been denied coverage, or who have been unable to afford it. Burdens are lifted, anxiety is removed, and often a tear or two is shed—it’s that important to our fellow citizens to be able to have affordable, comprehensive coverage.
In Colorado, due to the individual mandate and Medicaid expansion, 148,000 individuals have enrolled through the marketplace and 1 in 5 Coloradans are enrolled in Medicaid. Because of the statewide effort to enroll uninsured residents, Colorado had the fifth largest decrease in its rate of residents without health insurance.
As we head into 2015, remember that enrollment timeframes are short but local knowledge is vast, available, and free. Open enrollment runs from November 15, 2014 through February 15, 2015. However, if you want coverage effective January 1, you must sign up by December 15.
All of us at Tri-County Health Network plan to build exponentially on our recent successes in helping our community get insured, and I will remember the national pride and empowerment that surged through me when the leader of the free world called upon me to take part in this national movement.