Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois employees and community volunteers gathered at the Rauner Family YMCA recently to help Chicago residents better understand and sign up for the Affordable Health Care Plan.
The event was called Countdown to Coverage: Healthcare Enrollment and Wellness Fair.
“We are here today to help the uninsured better understand what their options are and make sense of a very confusing topic,” said Michael Deering, senior director of media and public relations for BCBSIL.
The YMCA’S gym was filled with stations offering medical screenings and flu shots, along with free fresh produce and face painting for kids. An indoor soccer field had booths where residents could sit down and sign up for health care with BCBSIL employees around to help.
“We did this to get the word out and tell people about what the law is,” said Genevieve Kruse, divisional vice president of retail marketing at BCBSIL. “We want to be here to help them do this process, it’s very complicated, and it’s not like buying a NO. 1 off the McDonald’s menu.”
There are 1.8 million people without health insurance in Illinois, and 9 out of 10 of those residents don’t even know about the Affordable Care Act, Kruse said.
BCBSIL handed out Health Insurance Starter Kits, which was a packet filled with basic information about how to sign up for health care, along with graphics like a check list of information needed when signing up.
But the event wasn’t just about getting people to sit down and sign up before the Feb. 15 deadline, Kruse said. It was also about getting the community involved.
“The biggest reason why we did this is that at Blue Cross, this is really our mission to be with our members through sickness and health,” Kruse said. “It’s bigger than just insurance. We’re trying to make sure people are getting connected to programs in the community.”
Deering said he was pleased that people could also get free medical screenings, free flu shots and vaccinations “because insurance is something that can be intimidating,” he said.
One lower West Side resident that took used these complimentary services was Antonia Alejo.
“We came here to get the flu shot for my daughter,” Alejo said.
Alejo said she and her daughter were not yet signed up for health insurance but planned to do so.
“I want to sign up to help my daughter,” Alejo said.
Kruse said a lot of residents without insurance don’t have a medical record yet.
“We are trying to help people get started by giving vision screenings, dental screenings, hearing screenings, we’re giving flu shots, so that people can walk away from here today with at least a better understanding of their health,” she said.
The event also offered activities for kids to help draw in families.
“I was hired by an entertainment company for the event to draw parents in, because several people mentioned they came because there were kids’ activities,”said Suzanne Waite, AKA Suzi the clown. “So it just helps promote the event and gets people involved.”
And Waite didn’t just serve as the children’s entertainment, she said although she already had health insurance, she picked up information on affordable care for her 26-year-old son as well.