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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Neighborhood Stories: The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on the South and West Sides of Chicago

“We don’t talk about health care much,” Henry Edwards admits.

Henry is a 24-year-old father, husband and life-long resident of Garfield Park and suffers from asthma. Henry works 30 hours a week – just under full-time – so employer-based insurance isn’t available to him. His wife, Renee, is hoping to be promoted to a full-time position soon so they can apply for insurance coverage through her job.

Henry and Renee have a six-month-old son, making them eligible for health insurance from FamilyCare, an Illinois Medicaid program. But the cost of living and caring for a family while trying to afford Henry’s more than $200-a-month asthma medication is a constant concern for the Edwardses.

Henry’s struggle is profiled in a new Local Reporting Initiative called Neighborhood Stories, released today by Illinois Health Matters and supported in part by The Chicago Community Trust. The Neighborhood Stories series will showcase articles and videos of people living and working in the underserved neighborhoods of Chicago’s South and West sides and how the Affordable Care Act affects them.

Neighborhood Stories also profiles small businesses, such as Ruby's in Garfield Park, formerly Edna’s, a soul food landmark. At one time, Ruby’s employees bought health benefits through AFLAC; today, Ruby’s owner Henry Henderson says he can’t afford to help out, even though he wants to.

To see and share the videos profiling Henry Edwards and Ruby’s restaurant, go here and here. Under the new health care law, people who have a pre-existing condition can no longer be disqualified from affordable private insurance. Health care reform will also provide a range of options for health coverage through a health insurance exchange to those who do not have such coverage through their employers. In addition, small business tax credits are now available for those who want to provide coverage.

Still, experts say that many individuals and small businesses on the South & West sides of Chicago either don't know much about the new health care law or are wary of how its provisions might affect them. To that end, Neighborhood Stories will also publish a series of articles that discuss how to better disseminate information about the Affordable Care Act. The first of these articles focuses on what small business leaders think about the new law, and how to help educate business owners.

For more information about the impact of the Affordable Care Act, check out our Individuals & Families and Small Business pages. And be sure to bookmark our Neighborhood Stories page – next month we’ll highlight what local policymakers are doing to implement the new health care law in Illinois.

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