Affordable Care Act help comes to county

By Alan Kozeluh

The Affordable Care Act is rolling into DeKalb County, and local health officials want to clear up confusion on its sign-up process.

The Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace opened for enrollment on Oct. 1 and 82 state health organizations are taking part in an enrollment and outreach program. The DeKalb County Health Department’s initiative goes by the name Enroll DeKalb County.

Jane Lux, DeKalb County public health administrator, said the goal of the initiative is to educate and provide assistance in enrolling in the health insurance marketplace. The assistance is either for enrolling in expanded medicaid or the new insurance products created by the Affordable Care Act.

The program makes sure people who are already coming in to the health department have access to the marketplace information.

“We have a lot of people coming into the Health Department for other reasons and services,” Lux said. “We want to make sure they have information about the new marketplace.”

Cindy Graves, personal health services division director, said the enrollment initiative has reached out to community organizations and non-profits to offer assistance to people who are considered the most likely to be uninsured.

“That can be anything from people who speak a different language, that can put them in a vulnerable position,“ Graves said. “People who are homeless, those kinds of things.”

The DeKalb County Health Department has employed three part-time counselors to help people sign up for the exchanges, and one of the counselors is bilingual. The counselors use a phone-based language service to translate for people who do not speak English.

“We don’t want any barriers there when we’re working with someone,” Graves said.

Kelli Rossi, director of patient services with KishHealth System, said Kish Hospital plans on certifying six “assisters” who will also help people enroll in the new exchanges.

The Illinois Department of Public Health estimates almost 8,500 people live in DeKalb County without health insurance. Lux said the goal of the initiative is to make contact with at least 5,000 people by the end of open enrollment in March.