Linn County successful in Medicaid expansion

'The need that's out there is huge'

Linn County now accounts for eight percent of Iowa’s population signed up for expanded Medicaid, and one health care officials attributes the county’s large organization of community partners for the number increase.

“The reality is we’re unique in Linn County,”said Jeff Tourdet, Affordable Care Act Outreach and Education Specialist. “We’ve always been a service-rich area and people want to help the community.”

Linn Community Center is partnered with 22 organizations to serve as places for people to go when they need assistance signing up for medical insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The group met Saturday to discuss the enrollment and program. Currently, just under 5,000 people have been signed up for the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan,  which is Iowa’s program for expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Heather Windfield is one of the 4,861 people who received health insurance, after receiving help from the Linn Community Center. Windfield is a single mother who works in the medical field, and said she couldn’t afford to get sick — or get insurance.

“The company I work for doesn’t offer health care, even though it’s in the medical field.” said Windfield, who works with the elderly. “I had to keep myself healthy: for myself, my sons, and my patients.”

Initially in October when the Affordable Care Act was accessible to the public for an online sign-up, the government received backlash over the system's errors. Windfield signed up for coverage over the phone, and said it did not follow the trend of others’ failed attempts online.

“It was kind of interesting with the phone call, but it went pretty smoothly,” she said. “(Linn Community Center) helped me ask questions I hadn’t even thought of, and the lady doing the application was very helpful. It’s comforting to know people know what they’re doing.”

While Linn Community Center and its 22 partners are all located in Linn County, Tourdet said people from across Eastern Iowa come for its resources. Many of the organizations offer Certified Application Counselor assistance, which provides one-on-one assistance with patients to help sign them up with insurance, answer questions, or help the patient locate a closer organization to help.

“The need that’s out there is huge,” said Susan Cardoza, a Certified Application Counselor and outreach coordinator for the Linn Community Center. “I work with people every day and go to the Community Health Free Clinic; the need is there, it’s just important to let people know who are afraid [to pursue signing up for the Affordable Care Act] that it’s a simple, quick process and we’re there to just help get them what they need.”

In addition to some resistance in patients, some legislators in Washington have also voiced their disagreement to the Affordable Care Act. Senator Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, who was in attendance for the Linn County insurance update, said some of the officials need to look at the progress that has been made, and that he believes this is a decision that can no longer be reversed.

“There’s always people who aren’t really excited for it, but there are always new proposals, there’s always going to be change,” Hogg said. “We can’t go back. There’s more room to improve the Affordable Care Act, but there’s people interested in it, and it clearly works.”

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