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First aid: Non-profit provides resources for Syracuse health care registration

Illustration by Natalie Riess | Art Director

A non-profit organization based in Syracuse’s South Side is hosting a series of events to promote health care education and enrollment under the Affordable Care Act.

100 Black Men of Syracuse, Inc. organized the sessions to address misinformation that may discourage uninsured Syracuse residents from signing up for a plan.

“I have insurance and I have a difficult time with what they cover and don’t cover,” said Charles Anderson, health and wellness chair of 100 Black Men. “So the people that don’t have any insurance, it’s really important that they get covered.”

The first session took place Feb. 8 at the Bethany Baptist Church. A second session was held Saturday afternoon and another will be held Feb. 21, Anderson said. The organization hopes to motivate residents, particularly minorities, to sign up for reasonably priced health care in Syracuse, where 13 percent of residents have no insurance, according to Onondaga County’s 2013 community health assessment and improvement plan.

The workshops are designed to provide information and aid before March 31, which is the deadline to sign up for the New York State of Health marketplace before receiving a financial punishment under the law’s individual mandate, Anderson said. If they miss the deadline, customers could next sign up on Jan. 1 of next year.

Fewer than 15 Syracuse residents interested in more information on the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, attended the first event, and 100 Black Men president Vincent Love called it a “practice run.” But the speakers, which included employees from health care companies and navigators that aid customers in the enrollment process, engaged those who came with unresolved concerns.

“If they’re intimidated by going to the health insurance companies personally these are fantastic resources for them,” Anderson said.

Conflicting reports and information have been given about Obamacare in Syracuse so 100 Black Men wanted people heavily involved in the enrollment process to provide information, Love said. The event intended to outline the law’s facts and the opportunities available to Syracuse residents.

Joe Wild, an employee of New York state-based MVP Health Care, outlined the terms of subsidies in the state marketplace, which vary depending on the consumer’s income related to the federal poverty level. A family of four with a $23,550 income, which is 100 percent of the federal poverty level, will pay a maximum two percent of its income as a premium. The premium percentage is more affordable than under previous laws, Wild said.

Apprehensiveness to enroll in a health care plan can stem from inaction and apathy, said Lanika Mabrey, a navigator for Access Care and Resources for Health. Mabrey, who guides Syracuse residents through enrollment, said they can better access health care under the ACA if they take the proper initiative.

“We really have to have a community that is aggressive about what’s going on,” Mabrey said.

Jamaine Munroe, a 24-year-old employee of the Jewish Home of Central New York, decided to attend the event because his premiums have risen every year since 2011. He heard that his insurance prices may become more manageable if he enrolled through the state marketplace and came to the event to get more information.

“The plan I have now is good but this one sounds even better,” Munroe said.

Munroe plans to enroll through the state marketplace, he said. And Anderson, the health and wellness chair, hopes that although attendance didn’t measure up to 100 Black Men’s expectations, residents like Munroe will spread the information and encourage more participation.

Said Anderson: “We may not have a lot of people here, but the people who are here can help us contact their families and people they know to help sign up. It’s getting the word out to people who can get the word out to other people.”

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