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South Side Care Fair Will Explain Obamacare, Enroll Uninsured

By Casey Cora | October 3, 2013 7:16am
 Workers with Be Covered Illinois will be on hand Sunday to help answer questions about the Affordable Care Act.
Workers with Be Covered Illinois will be on hand Sunday to help answer questions about the Affordable Care Act.
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Facebook/Be Covered

CHICAGO — Still have questions about getting health insurance under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

Organizers of the Be Covered Illinois Care Fair say they’re here to help.

The free event will take place from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday at Chicago Indoor Sports, 3900 S. Ashland Ave. in McKinley Park.

Guests at the fair can have their questions about health insurance coverage answered by workers housed under the umbrella of Be Covered Illinois, a statewide effort backed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois and dozens of health-focused groups.

Also on hand will be “assisters” certified by the state to help the uninsured enroll into one of the 165 plans offered by six private insurers in the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace.

Doing so will require functioning websites — technical glitches have hampered millions of potential new insurance customers who’ve flooded state and federal websites since enrollment began Tuesday.

“I think everybody’s worried about glitches,” said Donna Gerber, a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois spokeswoman. “We’re hopeful and optimistic that by Sunday the federal site will be up and running without glitches.”

Still, even if there are computer problems, Gerber said “it’s still important to establish that relationship and start that conversation” with the state’s “navigators,” who can schedule follow-up appointments.

And it’s important to point out that potential new insurance customers technically have until March 31 to enroll or face a penalty.

Attendees at the fair who are planning to enroll in an insurance program will have to bring surprisingly little in terms of paperwork.

Gerber said the state’s official enrollment website will ask some “some very typical screening questions, but in terms of actual documentation, a Social Security number and legal immigration status number would probably be most important.”

Organizers say Sunday’s event will be family-friendly. There will be a supervised Kid’s Zone, where children play games and participate in arts and crafts sessions, and there will be a healthy grocery giveaway for the first 1,000 families to attend.

The Be Covered Illinois effort — not to be confused with the state’s official health insurance website called Get Covered Illinois — also includes a website that aims to explain in plain language the options available to the uninsured, as well as a staffed hotline and text-messaging service.

Primarily backed by Blue Cross Blue Shield, the Be Covered campaign includes partnerships with a constellation of groups and nonprofits in Illinois, including the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Arab American Action Network, the Asian Health Coalition and many more.

The campaign is one of five state-authorized efforts to help distribute information, Gerber said. The other groups are Enroll America, Young Invincibles, Everthrive Illinois, Planned Parenthood and AARP.

Although Blue Cross Blue Shield is one of the private insurers with packages available from the state’s health care exchange, Sunday’s fair is "strictly informational and not a marketing campaign" for the insurance company’s services.

“There will be no product marketing at all. It’s strictly a public service and an outreach campaign about the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “We believe ... that if we grow the pie and get populations to enroll, we’ll get our fair share.”