Derek Malone sat outside Cook County’s Fantus Clinic in the brilliant fall sunshine, looking tired and discouraged. His stomach hurt and he felt dizzy. It’d been weeks since the 55-year-old had taken medications for his high blood pressure and intestinal ailments – prescriptions he says he can’t afford.
“Ten dollars for a co-pay, I don’t have that,” said Malone, who’s been unemployed and homeless since earlier this year, when his daughter lost a job at a McDonald’s and stopped paying her father to look after her four young children.
“I have zero income, and I get no kind of benefits,” Malone said as resignation crept into his gravelly voice. “The future, man it’s bleak for poor folks like me. I ain’t got no cell phone, no medical card, nothing. You can’t sleep in the streets, the police run you out of the parks. These programs out there, to them I ain’t nothing but a number. It’s a mighty hard pill to swallow.”
Organizations with strong community ties, such as Lawndale Christian Health Center in Chicago’s West Side, will be better able to serve their patients under the Affordable Care Act. Already emphasizing preventive care and a coordinated approach to patient management, including long-term monitoring of chronic problems such as heart disease and diabetes, LCHC and its community stand to benefit from ACA provisions that provide patients with free preventive care, expanded insurance options and federal investments in community health centers in underserved areas. The Lawndale community has one of the highest uninsurance rates in Illinois; under the ACA, organizations like LCHC will continue to serve as a primary care medical home for thousands of patients in this Chicago neighborhood, and will hopefully see more patients, because they will be able to afford insurance for the first time.
In every community across the south and west Sides, as well as other areas of Chicago, there is an individual Celine Woznica calls a “mother hen.”
“There are usually one or two people in a community-based organization who are such trusted and respected members of their communities that people come to them,” says Woznica, program director for the Chicago-based Asian Health Coalition of Illinois. “They know their communities, know their clients and know what those clients need. And they can get those clients connected to services.”
Often, “mother hens” also reside in the community, attend the temple, mosque or church and serve as the individuals folks turn to with questions, she adds. Inquiries may range from where to go for a flu shot to how to get heating assistance to when to go for citizenship classes. Many of these community-based organization staff members are trained in linking people to health care.
A Chicago soul food landmark for over 40 years, Edna’s Restaurant in Garfield Park had both a loyal customer base and a staff to match, weathering a temporary closure in 2010 after the death of its founder. Now called Ruby’s Restaurant, new owner Henry Henderson and long-time manager Lillie Joiner discuss their choices in trying to find health-care coverage for their employees. The Affordable Care Act already provides many such establishments with tax credits for health care coverage, and by 2014, a new marketplace will ensure Illinois small businesses have quality, affordable coverage options.
Uninsured until the birth of his child six months ago, Henry Edwards, life-long Garfield Park resident, negotiated both the symptoms of chronic asthma and the high cost of purchasing medicine to treat it. Parenthood qualified him for Family Care, an Illinois public aid program. After 2014, the Affordable Care Act will strengthen his family’s tenuous hold on health care, by formally prohibiting the exclusion of pre-existing conditions, and by providing subsidies for purchasing private insurance in a competitive marketplace.1 2 Next »
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