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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Does Your Cab Driver Have Health Insurance? Why Not Ask…

In his State of the Union address, President Obama called on us all to remember that citizenship “demands a sense of common purpose… an obligation to serve our communities.” He went on to challenge us on how we exercise the “spirit of citizenship.” Today I started my own personal journey towards a “spirit of citizenship” by actually engaging with people I encounter everyday on health insurance. On this cold day, I started with cab drivers.

In my brief experience I learned cab drivers are really confused about the ACA. One gentleman told me “Obamacare” wasn’t for him because he had a job, and that it was only for poor or sick people. Another driver said that he tried to get insurance last year, but that he had high blood pressure so no insurance company would take him. Yet another driver disclosed that when his wife broke her wrist in July he flew her all the way back to Turkey for surgery because he had no health insurance. A quick discussion (five minutes tops –including stop lights) with all three of these drivers cleared up their misperceptions. All three were surprised to learn they would be eligible for either a subsidy in the Marketplace or, in the case of the driver originally from Turkey, Medicaid expansion or County Care.

Fortunately, I was able to tell them about a new initiative of Enroll Chicago that is targeting cab drivers. Every Monday and Wednesday the city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has information booths with trained Get Covered Illinois navigators to help cab drivers enroll in health coverage.

Each day, more than 300 drivers come into the BACP office at 2350 W. Ogden Avenue to renew their licenses. They typically have to wait up to two hours to complete the license paperwork. Learning about health coverage options and enrolling in health insurance must be an excellent way to kill time – because in the first two days since program started, more than a hundred cab drivers talked to the navigators about health coverage. Think about how we could amplify that number if each of us were to talk to our cab drivers about health coverage!

Kudos to Enroll Chicago and the BACP for recognizing how they can exercise the “spirit of citizenship,”  making it easy for cab drivers to become informed and take action. I’m doing my part by sharing information about what Enroll Chicago and BACP are doing at 2350 W. Odgen.

How are you harnessing your “spirit of citizenship” when it comes to myth busting around the ACA? Let us know at info@illinoishealthmatters.org.
– By Barbara Otto, CEO, Health & Disability Advocates

If you have a media inquiry about this campaign, please contact Brian Richardson at the Chicago Department of Public health, Enroll Chicago 312-747-9805, brian.richardson@cityofchicago.org.

Photo credit: yooperann via photopin, cc license.