Welcome to the Illinois Health Matters Blog

What health reform means for the people of Illinois

A blog by IllinoisHealthMatters.org

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday, Illinois Health Matters!

A year ago today, Health & Disability Advocates, along with a collaboration of Chicago-based health policy and advocacy groups, with the generous support of The Chicago Community Trust, launched Illinois Health Matters. The stated goal of the website is "to provide up-to-date information on health care reform and its impact—now and in the future—for Illinois consumers, small businesses, the media and policymakers, and community-based organizations."

So - after we blow out our candle and have some birthday cake - we need to assess: are we meeting our goal?  

First, a look at the numbers, which help give some insights into our ablity to reach people with our health care reform messages: 
  • 151,937 news feed impressions of our press releases
  • 106,460 post views on Facebook 
  • 18,707 page views  on the website - the most popular being this Blog and our Neighborhod Stories series
  • 1663 tweets to 675 Twitter followers. 
  • 660 Views of our YouTube videos
  • 413 Connections on Linkedin
  • 76 Blog Posts with over 9500 page views.
So to sum up, Illinois Health Matters has provided unbiased, health reform implementation information to over 300,000 "eyes" over the past year. We've passed along and translated information about Affordable Care Act milestones [and setbacks] and Illinois' progress meeting those milestones. We've tried to reach audiences in a variety of ways knowing that different people have different appetites for information: - short bites (through Twitter), larger ones (Facebook) and then more indepth analysis through blog posts, email newsletter and our resource pages.

Sounds good, right? But what does that really mean? Who have we really connected with over the past year to help inform them about the Affordable Care Act changes?

First let's start with consumers. Take Henry Edwards, the subject of one of our Neighborhood Stories. Henry is a Chicago resident in his early 20's who suffers from asthma and could not afford health insurance. He was unable to get regular treatment and medication for his asthma due to the cost. Then, his wife gave birth to their first child, making their whole family eligible for insurance under the Illinois FamilyCare program. If Henry's or his wife's income were to grow and place them out of eligibility for Family Care, Henry would be faced with the high costs of insurance, and even if he could afford to buy coverage, insurance companies could refuse to cover him due to his pre-existing condition, asthma. However, starting January 1, 2014, because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Furthermore, Henry will be able to shop for coverage in the competitive health care marketplace, and possibly take advantage of tax credits that will help those of low income to afford insurance.

Another story, Shana, a 19-year-old student with ulcerative colitis who was ineligible for Medicaid and had been unable to get private insurance in order to cover important surgeries due to her pre-exisiting condition. She posed this dilemma to us in the Q&A section of IHM, and got a response about the IPXP, the state-run, federally funded insurance plan under the Affordable Care Act for those with a pre-exisiting condition. She has since enrolled in the program and gotten coverage!

In addition to individuals and families who we've talked to about their own health care needs, we have connected with small business owners to inform them about how the ACA can impact their employees. For example, we talked with Henry Henderson, owner of Ruby's Restaurant in Garfield Park, who can't afford to purchase health insurance for his employees yet although he'd love to do so. And then there is Mike Quinlan, executive director of the Near West Side Chamber of Commerce who said in response to our conversation with him: “It’s got me thinking this is something we should bring up. . . In terms of health care reform, it would help to identify expert speakers who can present the message at chamber meetings to our members.”  

Over the past year, we have also made new connections to local and national media who have helped us amplify our health reform message, including all of the Chicago Smart Community Portals, Community Media Workshop, Chicago Reporter, Progress Illinois, and Politico--a more impressive roster of partners than we could have imagined being able to claim at this point one year ago!

Last but not least, we have strengthened existing community partnerships and made new connections with policymakers, community organizations and service providers -- which will be especially invaluable as 2014 draws closer and over 1 million people will have new opportunities for affordable coverage in Illinois. As these health reform provisions roll out and previously uninsured Illinoisans are looking for guidance in how to navigate the system, we've already established connections with clinics, doctors, pharmacies, navigator groups and others who will help pave the way for a new way of getting care and staying healthy.

So, Happy Birthday to us! We have a lot to show for our first year -- and we have a lot more work to do.