MHP Salud and Su Clínica are on the front lines helping rural Texas communities get covered during the Open Enrollment period.
By David Castro, Associate Director, Web and Editorial Content, UnidosUS
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has not only changed the lives of individuals. It has transformed entire communities.
MHP Salud is located 10 minutes from the border with Mexico in Weslaco, Texas. Before the ACA, American families would have to travel across the border to Mexico in order to get affordable care. This put their lives at risk due to the safety issues in the area, recalls Norberto Gonzalez, Program Director at the UnidosUS Affiliate.
But this is no longer the reality since the ACA took effect in 2014.
“Health insurance coverage is a need, not a luxury,” Gonzalez says. “The ACA has proven to be very successful in facilitating access to health care, and improving the lives of many in the community.”
“We have had the privilege to serve many people in the community who were uninsured and in need of immediate medical care,” Gonzalez says. “One that stands out in my memory is the case of a local construction worker who [was blind] in one eye.”
“Health insurance coverage is a need, not a luxury.”
Gonzalez says that the man was able to get needed eye surgery thanks to the ACA and fully recovered his eyesight. This “significantly improved his quality of life and ability to be productive in his work,” he adds.
Cheryl Sproles, Director of Community Outreach at Su Clínica, has also seen the benefits of having affordable care on rural communities. She talks about a woman who visited their offices in the heavily rural area of Harlingen, Texas. The woman had recently lost her job and employer-provider insurance.
Based on her income, she was able to get insurance through the marketplace without having to pay a premium. The woman was very relieved to get insurance, Sproles says, because she was able to get needed shoulder surgery and only had to pay a deductible.
A COMMITMENT TO IMPROVING LIVES EVERY DAY
As the Trump administration has severely cut back on outreach and limited Open Enrollment dates, organizations like MHP Salud and Su Clínica have had to work even harder to serve their communities. Their navigators are working seven days a week and putting even 20 hours of overtime to get people enrolled, Gonzalez says.
Gonzalez says they are seeing about one-third of applicants this year coming in to enroll for the first time. The organization’s promotoras de salud (community health workers) went out to health fairs in the months before Open Enrollment to let the community know that the ACA is still the law of the land and answer people’s questions.
In Harlingen, Su Clínica serves more than 34,000 people at their clinics located in the primarily Hispanic community, and they also reach out to the wider Rio Grande Valley area.
Their seven Certified Application Counselors work by appointment so they can accommodate more people to get enrolled. But they also work with walk-in customers to make sure families can get the coverage they need at a time that is convenient for them. They also do home visits as needed.
“We’re working longer hours and have extended our hours of service to accommodate families,” Sproles says.
Su Clínica also have two school-based clinics in a small community called Santa Rosa. Many families in the heavily rural areas don’t have transportation, so these clinics are places they can walk to and get assistance.
Consumers can also call a phone line run by Su Clínica to get help. The goal is to do everything possible so everyone who is eligible to obtain health coverage under the ACA can do so.
“People are worried due to the short enrollment period,” says Gonzalez of MHP Salud. “This affects people like nurses or workers who haven’t been able to take the time off. So we make accommodations for consumers who request services outside our regular normal office hours.”
Gonzalez adds MHP Salud also partners with local public libraries and community hospitals to get people enrolled in those places.
Their efforts have paid off: They have processed a total of 679 applications in the first four weeks of Open Enrollment.
LAWMAKERS MUST PROTECT AMERICANS
We celebrate the tireless work of Su Clínica, MHP Salud, and all of our Affiliates across the country. They are truly the heart and soul of UnidosUS.
But their commitment must be backed by fair and just policy solutions that benefit our community and all hardworking families. That is why we will continue to advocate for defending and improving the Affordable Care Act.
“Having access to health care is important for everyone,” Sproles says. “If you want a vibrant community and a vibrant workforce, folks have to be healthy.”
This blog was made possible through funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through Community Catalyst.
To find out more about Open Enrollment, visit our page—you’ll get more information on how to shop for health care options in your area, and be able to see if you qualify for financial assistance for insurance coverage. Don’t delay—sign up before December 15 and make sure that you and your family have peace of mind in the new year.