Join the Department of Health and Human services (HHS), and community leaders across the county during the week of January 18, 2016 for National AAPI Enrollment Week of Action! #Getcovered
Name: Ivy Zhou
Position: Senior Program Coordinator
Organization: Asian Services In Action, Inc.
Years in public health/health services: 5 Years
As an experienced non-profit social service agency employee, it came natural to me that Affordable Care Act will make an important impact on the health of the community we serve. From my experience and knowledge of the community, I recognized that many of them were uninsured and unprotected in any health emergencies because they do not qualify for Medicaid. Many of them earn too much to be accepted into Medicaid yet not enough to pay for private insurance. As a result, they choose to be uninsured and bear the risk of lacking access to health care. Many of them avoid seeking medical help regardless of their health as they simply cannot afford the high medical cost. With the Affordable Care Act, these low to moderate income individuals and families can finally obtain health insurance through the government subsidies. In my third year as a Marketplace Navigator, I continue to see working adults without health insurance, and I hope that ACA will continue to bring change to the uninsured.
A prime example of impact would be seeing one of my client obtain health insurance for the very first time. He comes from a moderate income family, and had just graduated from college. His college did not require the purchasing of health insurance as he was a commuter student from nearby city state college, and after college he was able to secure a low paying job at a company that did not offer a health insurance package. For many years he was unwilling to obtain health insurance due to the high cost, and chose to become uninsured. He would avoid going to see the doctor even when he was sick; he relied on over the counter drugs to cure any sickness he felt, or he would stay home and “sleep it off”. He knew he could not afford going to see the doctor because he was a struggling college student with no income source. After he graduated from college, he still did not make enough money to purchase health insurance. He lacked access to health care for 8 years, no annual physical checkup, no dental care, and no optometry care. For all 8 years, all he wished for was to stay healthy and not having to worry about medical bills. As soon as ACA was enacted, he immediately came to our agency to submit a Marketplace application. I helped him with explaining all the provisions of health insurance such as co-pay, deductible, co-insurance, annual out of pocket charge etc. I also helped him choose insurance plan best suited for his financial status, and he received his first physical in years, finally able to access affordable health care through the enactment of ACA.
Our agency’s clientele are mostly low to moderate income AAPI’s with limited English proficiency. Every day we are tasked with clients who cannot communicate with Marketplace representative and our job entails acting as an interpreter and benefits specialist. Examples include assisting a client with Marketplace application, then the client was required to go through credit check with Experian. Because our clients generally were not recognized by the credit bureau, it was imperative for Navigators to make any and all phone calls to resolve the issue. Upon reaching a representative, our clients cannot understand what they were asked to do and thus required the assistance of Navigators. However, during parts of the process, the clients themselves must speak directly with the representative and provide consent to us, the Navigators to speak on their behalf. Through the back and forth conversation sometimes lasting for hours, we were able to finally confirm client’s enrollment to a health insurance plan. Such example is very common in our line of work as an agency whose primary focus is serving low to moderate income AAPI’s. Though the process could be very challenging, the end result is well worth all of the obstacles we face. Seeing the loosening of our clients’ worries of living without health insurance absolutely justifies all the hard work that was done.