The state of Illinois estimates that when the Affordable Care Act becomes law on January 1, 2014, about one million more people in Illinois will have health coverage.
With the health insurance marketplace opening on October 1, a lot of people are going to need help figuring out their options. In fact, the Illinois Department of Insurance estimates that 70 percent of people who will be applying for insurance through the government exchange or for medicaid will need assistance.
This is where county health departments come in. Eighty departments, all of them outside of Cook County, have received grants from the Illinois Association of Public Health Administrators. With that money, health officials will be able to conduct outreach to help the uninsured get coverage and to provide in-person counseling for those who need help navigating the process.
"We've always served people who were low-income, that were under-insured -- uninsured," said Walt Howe, the director of the McLean County Health Department. "Now with the expansion of Medicaid, on top of the Affordable Care Act, we're trying to position ourselves as a health department. Where do we actually fit in of the health care marketplace."
Kelly Stewart, the ACA coordinator for the Peoria County Health Department, said they estimate there are 17,000 people in the county who are uninsured. They are hoping to contact 10,000 residents and successfully enroll at least 6,000. To do this, they will have five staff members dedicated to in-person counseling.
They will be well trained. All counselors will have gone through online and classroom training at the state level and then passed an exam. Then they have to repeat the process at the federal level.
Some of the health departments in central Illinois are starting to take appointments for in-person counseling, but the session will not begin until the marketplace opens on October 1. You will need to have a photo ID, some recent pay stubs and your last tax return ready to bring to your appointment.
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