ELYRIA — It was not President Barack Obama, comedian Zach Galifianakis and didn’t take place between two ferns, but Friday afternoon the message urging people to sign up for health insurance before the March 31 deadline came through during a press conference at Elyria City Hall.
With the deadline to comply with the provisions of the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act looming for Americans, federal employees up and down the management ladder are crisscrossing the country to get the word out.
Federal Health and Human Services Region V Director Kathleen Falk stopped in Elyria on a tour of the area and echoed the sentiment Obama shared between barbs with the comedian on the “Between Two Ferns” Internet show featured on the Funny or Die website, shown during commercials on nearly every available channel and conveyed in email blasts from elected officials.
“Health care is now accessible to everyone and affordable, but the window to sign up for it is quickly closing,” Falk said.
Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda said her city and Lorain County are well-positioned to benefit from the Affordable Care Act. A countywide health survey conducted in 2012 showed that 12 percent of Lorain County residents — roughly 35,000 people — were without health insurance.
“This is why we have been trying to do things locally to encourage people to enroll before the deadline,” she said. “In this county, there are multiple health service agencies that are trained and ready to answer questions and enroll residents as needed.”
To date, 80,000 Ohioans have enrolled in health insurance programs. It is estimated that more than 1 million people still are without insurance in the state, Falk said.
“Those numbers tell us we still have so much work to do, and time is dwindling down,” she said.
Most of the uninsured in the state, as is the same for much of the country, include Latinos and young adults between 19 and 35 — historically the largest population of uninsured persons.
“Those who don’t have insurance are one catastrophic illness away from financial ruin,’’ Falk said.
March 31 is 16 days away and the next open enrollment period doesn’t begin until Nov. 15.
Kathleen Burke, community outreach and volunteer program coordinator for Lorain County Health and Dentistry, said typical enrollment events include a lot of information sharing, but once clients
are informed about the new law, many are eager to sign up.
“We have enrolled about 400 clients since October with many coming in January once the Medicaid expansion came through,” she said. “People are hearing about us through the grapevine, and they are calling us to enroll. The word is getting out there, but it needs to get out more.”
Tanas Wilcox, nursing director of the Lorain County Health District, said enrollment specialists are not willing to give up as the deadline draws near.
“We’re doing this because we know we’re helping people get insurance that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” she said.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT SIGN-UP EVENTS
Upcoming Lorain County insurance enrollment events sponsored by various organizations and the Coalition for the Uninsured of Lorain County include the following:
- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Ross Conference Room 2 of Mercy Regional Medical Center, 3700 Kolbe Road, Lorain
- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday in the front lobby of Mercy Allen Hospital, 200 W. Lorain St., Oberlin
- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 26 at the Elyria City Health Department, 202 Chestnut St., Elyria
- 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 27 at the Partnership Ridge Campus of Lorain County Community College, 32121 Lorain Road, North Ridgeville
SIGNING UP AT AN OFFICE
Those who would like to enroll can walk in or preferably make an individual appointment at one of three Lorain County Health & Dentistry locations:
- 1205 Broadway — Lorain
- 3745 Grove Ave. — Lorain
- 412 East River Road — Elyria
The number to call is (440) 240-1665.
WHAT TO BRING TO SIGN UP
- Individuals who attend these events or make an appointment and want to enroll must bring the following documents:
- Social Security number
- Pay stubs, W-2 forms, or wage and tax statements
- Policy numbers for any current health insurance
- Information about health insurance available through current employer (if applicable)
A DEBATE ABOUT THE ACA
- The deadline for enrollment in the Affordable Care Act is March 31.
- A debate discussing the merits and possible alternatives to the Affordable Care Act will take place at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Dye Lecture Hall at Oberlin College. The event is free and does not require a ticket. The discussion will feature David Henderson, an associate professor of economics at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and Theodore Marmor, professor emeritus at Yale University.