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What health reform means for the people of Illinois

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Obamacare Lady: What made me want this job?

Last year, I accepted a position to be an In-Person Counselor with the State of Illinois. You may also have heard the terms Navigator or Assister used to describe this job. I help people with the Affordable Care Act. A few people have called me, “The Obamacare Lady.”  Yes, I help people understand “Obamacare” and help them determine what help they may qualify for in obtaining health insurance.

What made me want this job you ask? Well, I was drawn to this job for a number of reasons:
First, I like helping people. Prior to starting the training for this job, the only thing I knew about the Affordable Care Act was that it would help people like my Mother get cheaper healthcare. My Mom had a heart attack a few years ago and since then, her health insurance premiums went through the roof. And by roof, I mean they were more than a mortgage payment on a 3 bedroom house!! Yikes! That seemed crazy to me. So, I wanted to do this job to help people like my Mother and clients like Kathy. Kathy* is a small business owner and has a pre-existing condition. Her business has been quite profitable in the past, but since 2008, things have been rough. Due to the high costs of health insurance, especially with her pre-existing condition, she could not afford to pay her rent and eat if she purchased a health plan. So, she hasn’t had health insurance for years. She has been going without her medication and has just been hoping that her condition has not progressed. We met and completed an application together and found out that she is eligible for a tax credit and reduced out of pocket expenses.  She is thrilled to be able to purchase a health insurance plan for $ 150 a month. These stories are my every day.

Second, I’m all about saving money. I love to shop for the best price for everything. I wait for sales, clip coupons and save my money for a rainy day. I get a little thrill out of helping someone save hundreds of dollars on their health insurance. It’s fun for me.

Third, I like to know the facts. This has been quite the topic of conversation. Almost everyone has an opinion. Over the years, it seems our news sources now always have a particular slant one direction or another. It is pretty difficult to find someone that will give you both sides to a problem or issue. So, my solution was to get boots on the ground and learn about the ACA myself and make my own decisions.

This job is not for the faint of heart. The reason that I have kept this job is that I am persistent and resilient. On a typical day, I get to see a formerly stressed, worried and confused individual walk out of my office with a little less weight on their shoulders, a little more money in their pocket and much more confident about their future. But getting there isn’t always easy. The rules to the Affordable Care Act are complex and each person’s situation is different, but that has been the fun part of being “The Obamacare Lady.” I meet so many interesting people and have a bird’s eye view of the diversity in our state. Illinoisans are beautiful, generous and hard-working.

Back in October, when the website wasn’t working very well, every person asked me if people were treating me okay. They were concerned that someone would take their anger and frustration out on me. Not a single person did. Then, people were concerned about all “those people” that might be taking advantage and defrauding the system. They wanted to make sure there were ways in place to catch the “cheaters.” After a while, all these questions made me laugh. No. Everyone I meet with is just like you. We want the same things. We want to provide things like health insurance for ourselves and our family. We are willing to sacrifice and work hard to do it. We want to obey the law. We want to be honest and tell our truth. We want to pay our own way and don’t want anything for free. Our politics and opinions on this Affordable Care Act are varied to be sure, but the similarities among us are so close. We are too hung up on headlines and sensationalism to see it.    

By Barb Silnes
In-Person Counselor


  1. Wow!. Your words describe exactly how I feel. I love being a Certified Application Counselor. I have the same experience with my patients day in and day out. The plans and stories are all a mix of the same. Beautiful way to put it. Keep up the great work!!!!

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