CLINTON — Area healthcare professionals and community members intend to work to educate those without insurance on how to enroll under the Affordable Care Act.
With enrollment becoming available Tuesday, Mercy Medical Center and Genesis VNA hosted a planning meeting that morning at in the Mercy Conference Center. Michele Cullen, who works with Clinton County Public Health and as Community Health Manager at Genesis VNA, led a discussion on the program.
"I'm just really excited that hopefully we can help our community be a healthier place" Cullen said. "Now it's our job to try to help our community, educate them, help give them access to this marketplace."
Cullen told those at the meeting that 250,000 Iowa residents have become eligible for healthcare coverage through the Medicaid expansion, but experts believe less than half will actually enroll. The enrollment deadline is March 31, 2014. However, anyone wanting coverage by the first of the year must enroll by Dec. 15
Cullen told those at the meeting that she needs their help. Her focus for the time being will be providing information to the uninsured about enrollment.
"If they chose not to, well then that's their choosing. But, at least, I think we need to encourage them to look at what the options are," Cullen said.
Iowa State Rep. Mary Wolfe would like to see meetings set up within the next few weeks so people can ask questions and learn more about affordable healthcare. She has received e-mails and correspondence from people upset that there are not any educational meetings scheduled yet.
"They are scared to death. So much misinformation is out there. People are scared," Wolfe said. "And they really want to know."
Cullen and Mercy Medical Center Vice President of Business Development Rod Tokheim are looking for organizations and businesses that can host informational meetings and training. He said the goal is to hold at least five of these meetings.
Tokheim and Cullen also are asking members of various organizations to complete five hours of online training to become certified application counselors who are prepared to aid people in enrolling. Clinton Public Library Director Amy Birtell, as well as her staff and representatives from the county, volunteered to do this.
Birtell expects to see many people in the library looking for help on healthcare and would like to know how best to help. She expressed worries about confidentiality and what is needed to complete the application.
The group hopes to meet again and schedule public forums.