by Sue Ann Rybak
The clock is ticking on Obamacare. At a press conference held on March 27 at Chestnut Hill Hospital, 8835 Germantown Ave, State Rep. Cherelle Parker said “from today you have five days, 20 hours, 7200 minutes and 43,200 seconds” to enroll in the health insurance marketplace.
Organizing for Action (OFA), a nonpartisan group that focuses on social justice issues, and Chestnut Hill Hospital held the press conference to encourage residents to sign up for health insurance before the March 31 deadline. Uninsured residents can enroll in a health insurance plan by calling 1-800-318-2596 or by going to www.healthcare.gov., the online health insurance plan marketplace.
Several enrollees shared their success stories, including South Philadelphia resident Susan O’Connell, 55, who lost her job of 20 years at Drexel University last April.
“Thanks to Obamacare, I only pay 27 cents a month for health insurance coverage,” said O’Connell, who has a silver plan. “I paid $590 a month through COBRA for the same health insurance coverage. I recently paid for 12 months of healthcare upfront for a whopping $3.24.”
Rob Payne, 64, of Nicetown, said that prior to Obamacare, the skyrocketing cost of health insurance premiums made access to quality healthcare unobtainable.
“For seven years, I went without health insurance because I couldn’t afford to make payments,” Payne said. “COBRA wanted to charge me $500 a month for coverage, and now, thanks to the ACA [Affordable Care Act], I only pay $72.73 a month for the same coverage.”
Parker said that for the past five months her office has worked tirelessly to enroll constituents in the marketplace by having experienced certified application counselors available day and night to assist constituents in the enrollment process.
“The great thing about supporting and encouraging people to sign up is that, this is not a partisan issue,” Parker said. “Access to quality and affordable healthcare is something that all Americans and human beings need to have access to.”
Parker said a recent report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute ranked Philadelphia as the least healthiest county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“If we need some fire under our feet … to get people engaged,” Parker said, “hopefully, this report will be a wake-up call.”
Dr. John Cacciamani, CEO of Chestnut Hill Hospital, said the ACA, insurance policies on the health insurance marketplace not only provide coverage for routine visits to primary care and family doctors but also for specialists as well.
“Today, we have insurance for everything – insurance for our cars and our house – but people need to understand that they need [health] insurance now in order to be protected,” Cacciamani said.
He said that as a health care professional, he has seen firsthand how devastating not having health insurance after a car accident or an unforeseen illness can be. He added that even more alarming is the new trend in healthcare – one-stop urgent care. He said there has been a shift in patient behavior over the past decade.
“Patients no longer have relationships with their primary-care doctors like they used to have,” Cacciamani said.
He said there was a new trend in medical care to create urgent care clinics that help patients treat an issue “without figuring out what is wrong with you.” He said patients need more “than just-in-time care.”
Cacciamani pointed out that the whole purpose of primary-care doctors is to help patients manage chronic health issues like stress, weight and medicine management. He added that buying health care insurance through the marketplace allows people to gain access to affordable quality health care.
“Access to quality healthcare is the key and not waiting until the last minute to seek care,” he added.
Cacciamani said patients need more than a quick fix.
“This is a way for people to have coverage and develop meaningful relationships with their doctor so they can get the quality care they deserve,” he said. “But we need people to get on the bandwagon.”