November 18, 2013, Jackson, MS – Holmes County, MS — The Federal Healthcare Insurance Marketplace was up and working last weekend, which was fortunate because 16 volunteers from Southern Echo were in Holmes County assisting residents seeking to sign up for healthcare insurance as part of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare.” Mayor Tasha Davis of Durant, the Holmes County Board of Supervisors, and Nollie Jenkins Family Center sponsored the event with Southern Echo. Faculty and students of the New York-based Sarah Lawrence College Health Advocacy Program designed and offered comprehensive volunteer training, on not only the Affordable Care Act, but also Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), and Medicare.
As of Nov. 1, health insurance navigators based at UMMC had signed up only 120 residents, while the Southern Echo and Sarah Lawrence volunteers signed up nearly 40 in one weekend using both online and paper applications. Volunteer Dianna Freelon-Foster, the Director of Activists With A Purpose in Grenada noted, “If community organizations in every county did this, then we would have everyone who is eligible for health care coverage signed up.”
Ms. Freelon-Foster also pointed out, “You see up front the negative impact of the decision not to expand Medicaid,” referring to Gov. Bryant’s decision to refuse 100% reimbursement of Medicaid costs for new enrollees if the state expanded coverage to include those earning up to 138% of poverty level, which would be almost $16,000 per year for an individual or about what a minimum wage full-time Walmart worker earns.
Over 35 residents received advice and assistance, not only on signing up for health insurance but also on problems with Medicaid, Medicare and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP). Citizens presented with a diversity of health care affordability needs, demonstrating why it’s important for organizations like Southern Echo and it’s partners to be engaged in helping residents access Obamacare. As Leroy Johnson, Executive Director of Southern Echo noted, “Community groups are willing to deal with the whole person, that means working with individuals and their families in ways that support them, and making sure they get the kind of services that they deserve and need.”
Participants in the sign up event found the experience so helpful that they went out to recruit others to take advantage of this important, but rarely available, service.
Southern Echo, through its trained volunteer force, will be offering additional Affordable Healthcare Insurance clinics throughout the Delta through March 31, 2014.