SEA Helped Smooth Out ACA Rollout

Members, Staff Educated Thousands and Assisted With Signing Up

It was just a simple phrase, but it brought it all home for Burrett McBee.

This Reuters photo from an SEA enrollment fair made the rounds nationally on an NPR story this week. For the many SEA members and staffers who helped with ACA enrollments, it was a nice pat on the back.

“Who says getting on the Marketplace was difficult? Thanks SEA!” read the sign pictured atop a NPR story about community efforts to enroll Granite Staters in the Affordable Care Act.

“It was a high-five to my wife and I because we were part of that,” said McBee, an SEA/SEIU Local 1984 member at Plymouth State University. “I’m really proud of the SEA’s contribution to that here in New Hampshire.”

As open enrollment came to a close on Monday, more than seven million had enrolled in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. It’s estimated that the final numbers in New Hampshire could top 30,000 when final figures are released.

As a certified assister organization, the SEA played a significant role in helping get people signed up — going out into the community and providing one-on-one assistance. Four SEA staffers were certified to help people sign up, and union members like McBee joined those staffers in hosting 15 enrollment fairs around the state. Additionally, members and staff held nearly 300 educational meetings around the state, bringing information on the ACA to nearly 3,000 state, municipal and county employees. After the troubled roll-out of the ACA, this campaign-style effort helped turn the tide here.

The issue of health care is important to McBee and his wife Rhu (you can read their story here). While McBee is covered by Medicare, Rhu had to get health coverage through New Hampshire’s high-risk pool. Rhu now has health coverage through the ACA that costs half of what they were paying previously, despite pre-existing health conditions. McBee and his colleagues in the PSU Teaching Lecturers even held their own ACA enrollment fair “in a snowstorm,” McBee said.

“There are so many ways this law has helped,” McBee said.

The SEA’s efforts to assist people enroll through the ACA are part of the larger SEIU efforts to help ensure that all have access to good, affordable health care coverage. Since Congress passed and President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law just over four years ago, SEIU members have played a significant role in bringing good healthcare coverage to not only the seven million people who have signed up through marketplaces, but also to the millions of young adults up to age 26 on their parents plans, and millions more low-income working people receiving coverage through Medicaid. In all, SEIU efforts reached more than 2.4 million people during the open enrollment period.

“SEA members have worked so hard for so long to help make affordable health care a reality for all,” SEA President Diana Lacey said. “It just made sense for us to be right in the middle of efforts to educate and get people signed up. We know there are so many of our friends, family, and even our members who work part time who don’t have access to health care through work, so this was personal for us. I’m incredibly proud to know that we were able to reach and help so many of our friends, neighbors and colleagues.”

Although improvements are needed to the ACA, such as making the healthcare.gov website more reliable and getting more insurers and providers to participate in Marketplace plans, the ACA has made a big and positive difference. Here in New Hampshire, the SEA’s efforts helped many, including:

  • Colleen, who no longer has to worry about the financial impact of accidents like the fall that ended up costing her $40,000.

  • Katrina, who’d been uninsured for years and ended up getting a plan for $23.20 a month.

  • Joyce, who works three jobs but doesn’t receive employer-provided healthcare.

These successes have come despite a nearly constant stream of opposition attacks on the healthcare law. These attacks overlook the many benefits of the ACA that go well beyond providing access to affordable coverage. We all benefit when insurance companies can no longer:  deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions; charge women whatever they want, whenever they want to; and cut off coverage when people are in the middle of costly treatments.

Although open enrollment for 2014 closed on Monday, anyone who tried to apply before midnight Monday and was stymied by technical problems should be able to complete their applications and get coverage. You’ll want to try to finish the process by April 15 at the latest. It’s also important to note that special enrollment periods are available throughout the year for those who see life changes like the birth of a child, marriage or loss of a job. If you won’t need coverage until next year, keep in mind that open enrollment for 2015 will begin in November.

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