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With deadline nearing, outreach coordinators for Affordable Care Act step it up

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With the March 31 deadline for Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment fast approaching, an area group involved in helping citizens with the law is making strong efforts to enroll those who are eligible and can benefit from it.

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Piedmont Health has seven outreach and enrollment coordinators working hard to help the public understand how they could benefit from the law. The Carrboro-based group, which operates seven community health centers and a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly in central North Carolina, is among the many organizations around the nation receiving grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help with outreach and enrollment under the ACA.

Piedmont has been helping North Carolina residents enroll in the ACA since October and will continue reaching out to the public through public events and through the media, said Brian Toomey, CEO of Piedmont Health. The next event is Saturday, March 15, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Stoney Creek AME Church at the Wayman Chapel AME Church’s Fellowship Hall. Please need to schedule an appointment by calling 336-223-4642 by no later than March 12th.

Those who hesitate could miss a golden opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their families, Toomey said. He urged residents who are uninsured or underinsured to take the time to find how they could benefit from the ACA.

“Yes, there is still a lot of public squabbling about the Affordable Care Act, but the law is here to stay and it will be an enormous benefit for millions of Americans. I suggest you put on your headphones – figuratively or literally – and drown out whatever noise that is still out there. It is time to focus on whatever you need to do for you and your loved ones to stay healthy.”

Toomey noted that Piedmont has helped dozens of people enroll so far (see blurbs below). “This law is helping millions of Americans to improve their lives,” he said. You and your family can be among the success stories.”

Among those Piedmont has helped enroll in the ACA are:

Robert Staley: Before December of 2013, Robert Elliott Staley relied on urgent care centers for his medical care.

“I was able to see a doctor before, but there were a lot of bills to pay – a lot of out-of-pocket expenses,” he said. The uncertainty of the cost of visits to the urgent care center discouraged him from seeking medical care, Staley said. The 54-year-old resident of Bear Creek, N.C., has a part-time job working for a thrift store and has limited financial means.

Staley heard that the Siler City Community Health Center helped people enroll in health insurance available through the Affordable Care Act, and he decided to seek their help. Karen Frazier, an outreach and enrollment coordinator for Piedmont Health, which operates seven community health centers in Central North Carolina, helped Staley understand his options under the program. In December, he enrolled in a health insurance program that only cost him $9 per month. “I was surprised at the cost,” Staley said. “I expected to pay more.”

His only out-of-pocket expenses under his new insurance plan are $5 per visit, Staley said. “Now, I can go to the doctor when I need one,” he added.

Faydean Milliken: A 62-year-old resident of Siler City, N.C., Faydean Milliken had health insurance until recently, when her employer – an upholstery maker – dropped it in a cost-cutting move. Milliken, who works as an upholstery sewer, found insurance on her own but it was $300 per month.

“It was really more than I could afford,” she said. Milliken paid the insurance for one month before dropping it.

Then Milliken sought help from the Siler City Community Health Center. Karen Frazier, an outreach and enrollment coordinator with Piedmont Health, which operates the center, helped Milliken find a plan that was more affordable. On Feb. 6, Frazier helped Milliken find coverage under the Affordable Care Act for only $109 per month.

She is glad to have insurance again. “It makes a big difference,” Milliken said. “I’ve always had insurance. “You feel a little uncertain [without insurance] because you just don’t know what’s going to happen. That’s why it’s called insurance – you want to be prepared.”

Felicia Clark

Before Felicia Clark got coverage through the Affordable Care Act in January, she was without health insurance for many years – so many, in fact, that she could not remember how long.

The 43-year-old resident of Burlington. N.C., had health insurance through Medicaid when her children were small, but her eligibility for the coverage expired as her children aged.

Clark said she had “no major health problems” during that period, but that doesn’t mean she did not need medical care. “When I had a backache or something, I couldn’t go to a doctor because I didn’t have any way to pay for it,” Clark said. “I hadn’t been to a doctor in sooo long.”

How did she cope? “I somehow made it through,” she recalled. It was ironic that she did not have health insurance, Clark said, because she works in health care – she’s a nurse.

Clark was excited when she learned about the Affordable Care Act but wasn’t clear on how to enroll. One friend advised her to call Blue Cross/Blue Shield, but Clark hesitated, unsure of that insurer’s connection to the Affordable Care Act. Finally, another friend informed Clark that enrollment assistance was available at the Charles Drew Community Health Center, a facility in Burlington operated by Piedmont Health.

“I called that lady [Hattie King] and she had me set up an appointment to come in,” Clark explained. “I went in and she got me enrolled that same day that I talked to her,” Clark recalled. “He was very nice. She found a plan that was affordable for me.”

Clark signed up for a plan that cost$27.61 per month.

“I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity,” she said. “I thank God for it – I really do.”

Linda Valines: Linda Valines’ misfortunes started on Oct. 19, 2010. That’s the day the 52-year-old resident of Burlington, N.C., was in a car accident, which caused her to have

a bulging disc in her back. She spent the next year going through physical therapy and, in January 2012, underwent surgery.

A few months later, Valines was laid off from her position in a retail store, since she could no longer meet the physical demands of the job. She had worked at the store for more than 15 years. Her health insurance coverage also ended.

“That was kind of devastating not to finish my treatment,” she said.

Valines and her husband, David, considered adding her to his health insurance plan. However, doing so would cost the couple $100 per week, which they couldn’t afford.

But things began to turn around for Valines in October of 2013, when enrollment began in the Affordable Care Act. She called the hotline number for the Health Insurance Marketplace a few times, but was unable to reach a representative for help. She then called the Charles Drew Community Health Center in Burlington, N.C., in December, and set up an appointment to discuss enrollment for health insurance. Valines worked with Hattie King, the center’s outreach and enrollment coordinator.

King helped Valines navigate the Health Insurance Marketplace website, and Valines was able to complete the enrollment process. Her new insurance plan cost her $89 per month and starts Feb. 1, 2014.

“You’d have thought I hit the lottery,” she said. “It’s really rough not having insurance.”

Valines regularly visits the Charles Drew Community Health Center, one of the seven community health centers operated by Piedmont Health Services, Inc., based in Carrboro, N.C. She has regular visits with Dr. Sionne George at the Charles Drew Community Health Center. Dr. George and other staff members have helped her to better manage her back pain, Valines said.

She is hopeful about the new year. She is now considering online college courses and hopes to find new opportunities.

“I can hopefully get into a better situation and hopefully go back to work,” Valines said. “I feel like I still have a few good years left to work.”

Daisy Reaves: Daisy Reaves had no health insurance but relied on an open-door health clinic for medical care. The clinic allowed her to keep her Type 2 diabetes under control, but she sometimes had to postpone clinic visits in order to save up enough money for treatments or medication.

And the Burlington, N.C., resident had a bigger worry: While she was reasonably healthy, she was 58 years old. Reaves worried what she would do if she had an emergency or became seriously ill.

When enrollment for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act began Oct. 1, 2013, Reaves wanted to enroll but was afraid the process would be difficult. “I don’t know much about computers,” she said.

Reaves also had doubts about finding an affordable insurance plan.

Her sister suggested calling the Charles Drew Community Health Center in Burlington, N.C., for help. Reaves made an appointment to visit the health center in December. She worked with Hattie King, the Charles Drew center’s outreach and enrollment coordinator. King helped Reaves navigate the website and review different insurance plans.

About 45 minutes after logging onto the website, Reaves had enrolled in a health insurance plan that will cost about $25 per month. Reaves said the experience was a pleasant surprise.

“I thought it was too good to be true,” she said. “I was relieved.”

Reaves plans to start visiting the Charles Drew center, which is closer to her home than the clinic, in February 2014 when her new insurance coverage begins.

“Now, I can just go to the doctor,” she said. “I won’t have to wait a few days or a few weeks.”

Contact information for Piedmont Health outreach and enrollment coordinators:

Siler City -- (919) 357-8216

Carrboro (serving Orange County) -- (919) 724-5227 (bi-lingual)

Charles Drew (serving Alamance County) -- (336) 260-2720

Moncure -- (919) 710-1554

Prospect Hill - (serving Caswell & Person County) -- (336) 639-0427 (bi-lingual)

Scott (serving Alamance County) -- (919) 357-7039

All Counties (Outreach Enrollment Lead) -- (919) 619-5457

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