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Year Two Of ACA Health Insurance Enrollment Begins

U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay speaks with Rhonda and John Kiely at the health insurance resource fair at the St. Ann Community Center on Saturday, November 15, 2014.
File photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio
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U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay says he hopes more Missourians sign up for health insurance this year, now that the second year of open enrollment under the Affordable Care Act has begun.

More than 150,000 Missourians signed up for insurance last year—about half of those eligible. 

To mark the first day of open enrollment, the congressman visited a resource fair Saturday at the St. Ann Community Center in north St. Louis County. On-site navigators helped people sign up for health insurance, as vendors sold barbecue and salsa music played.

Clay said the ACA has been a great benefit to Missouri, but the state legislature needs to expand Medicaid so that more Missourians can get insurance.

“It’s very cynical on the part of the Republican-led legislature to deny their own constituents what I consider to be a basic right, which is health care coverage,” Clay said, adding that expanding Medicaid would help the Missouri economy.

With Congress now in the majority in both houses, there have been rumblings that Republicans may attempt to repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare.

But Clay says he doubts Republicans are serious about repealing it.

“When you think about the benefits in their own states; how many hundreds of thousands of people have taken advantage in their own districts, in their own states, it would be kind of difficult for them to repeal this law and then not replace it with something similar,” Clay said.

Saturday’s resource fair was organized by the Community Action Agency of St. Louis County, and made special effort to reach the Hispanic community of St. Ann, with Spanish-speaking insurance navigators on hand.

Gustavo Valdez, an insurance navigator with the Community Action Agency of St. Louis County helps Charles Niemeyer enroll in health insurance through the healthcare.gov website.
Credit Camille Phillips/St. Louis Public Radio
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Gustavo Valdez, an insurance navigator with the Community Action Agency of St. Louis County helps Charles Niemeyer enroll in health insurance through the healthcare.gov website.

Charles Niemeyer is one of the people who sat down with a navigator during the fair. He said not having insurance has been very stressful because he can’t see a doctor regularly.

“I have high blood pressure, COPD, and edema of the legs. And I just can’t get everything checked at once. And it’s hard to get prescriptions without a current doctor,” he explained.

Niemeyer said he landed in the hospital once because he went six months without a prescription.  He is hoping having insurance will either help him qualify for disability or help him get healthy enough to go back to work.

Including Niemeyer and the other individuals who signed up for insurance at the fair, the Community Action Agency of St. Louis County hopes to help 800 people enroll for health insurance between now and February 15, when open enrollment ends.

For more analysis on Missouri and the Affordable Care Act, see Durrie Bouscaren’s report on the first year of health insurance coverage.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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