Some health care needs are predictable but some are not. We can plan around giving birth, having a heart bypass, or scheduling a colonoscopy. But there are also surprises, such as injuries from accidents, or a cancer that appears with no family history … or COVID-19.

Either way, health care coverage is critical to living a productive, secure, and healthy life. Health insurance greatly improves access to quality care. It’s linked with improved outcomes, supports appropriate health care use, and improves individual, family, and community well-being. Meanwhile, people lacking coverage often find it difficult to access the care they need. COVID-19 has only highlighted the importance of having health insurance coverage … and the economic downturn caused by the pandemic has contributed to even more individuals needing to find a new source of coverage.

Fortunately, there are some options that deserve a closer look.

Open enrollment for 2021 health care coverage in the individual marketplace began yesterday, kicking off a six-week window to purchase individual or family health coverage. Financial help is available for many people in need of coverage. It’s important that everyone explore their options.

Expanding health insurance coverage is a central part of our advocacy efforts for additional COVID-19 relief, as we continue to urge Congress to prioritize maintaining health benefits for individuals and families and increase coverage options for those uninsured by authorizing employer subsidies for preserving enrollment; covering COBRA costs; and increasing eligibility for federal subsidies. It’s also critical that every state expand Medicaid and that the federal government help states financially to make that happen.

While AHA keeps working with Congress on these and other solutions to expand access to affordable and comprehensive coverage, hospitals and health systems can help spread the word about open enrollment and other coverage opportunities, such as Medicaid and CHIP, to help their communities get covered. Many efforts across the country are already underway.

For example, Providence’s CARE Network Program in Northern California relies on community health workers and social workers to help individuals apply for federal marketplace and/or Medicaid plan enrollment. It has proven to be a lifeline for many people who are poor, homeless, food insecure and/or suffering from multiple chronic health conditions.

Open enrollment runs through Dec. 15. Visit AHA’s webpage and www.HealthCare.gov for resources that will help you spread the word.

Please join us in working to improve access to quality health care and coverage in our communities so that together we can advance health in America.

 

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