I like to tell stories. I like to illustrate macro issues with individual narratives, highlighting the humanity behind HIV/AIDS. Inside Story is a perfect platform for this because it focuses on the lives mainstream media often overlook.
This post deviates from that model slightly, insofar as I’m not profiling an individual—but this piece is vitally important, especially to many of our readers. We need to talk about ObamaCare.
I was recently visiting a friend, and he said, “I don’t know what to do. I’m a relatively smart guy, but I have no clue what’s going on with ObamaCare. I look at websites, but I don’t understand what they’re saying or what they want me to sign.” My friend is self-employed and eager to take advantage of new options for health care, but change can be confusing.
For starters, ObamaCare is the popular term for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or health care reform.
“ObamaCare will completely change the landscape for prevention, treatment, care, and essential services for people living with HIV,” said John Peller, vice president of policy at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). “It will link more people to HIV testing, connect more people living with the disease to medications, and give more people access to regular medical care.”
This is also true for people who test negative for HIV. They’ll have access to care and preventive services in unprecedented ways.
But there are a few questions that need to be answered before we can reap the fruits of this new law, such as: When do you sign up for coverage? How do you sign up? Who is eligible for coverage, and when does it begin?
Let’s slow things down and start with dates. Most people can enroll in ObamaCare starting October 1, 2013. Their coverage will then be effective on January 1, 2014.
This open-enrollment window closes on March 31, 2014 for the new private insurance options (more about that in a second). After that, people won’t be able to sign up for ObamaCare private insurance until the fall of 2014 for coverage beginning in 2015. I want to keep it simple, but I have to note, low-income people will be able to enroll in Medicaid at any time.
It’s important to enroll early to get covered as soon as possible. For conversation’s sake, let’s say you enroll in an ObamaCare plan on December 15, 2013. Your coverage will then begin January 1, 2014. If, on the other hand, you enroll on December 16, 2013, your coverage won’t begin until February 1, 2014.
Next we need to introduce an important term: Health Insurance Marketplace (or simply Marketplace). Think of this like Orbitz for health care. It’s a website that allows customers to shop for high-quality health insurance that fits their budget, hassle free.
Here’s a short video that helps explain the function of the Marketplace:
Every state will have its own Marketplace. Though there is no website for the Illinois Marketplace yet, follow AFC on Facebook and Twitter for updates. To discover public, private, and community health care options through ObamaCare, visit finder.healthcare.gov.
If you don’t have access to the Internet, you will also be able to enroll in ObamaCare by phone, paper application, or in person. These are also subject to the same timetable as online applications, and AFC will keep you abreast with information, as details become available.
Finally, for people in Illinois, the state’s Medicaid program will expand to include everybody whose income is at or below 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). That’s a confusing number, but it boils down to this: For a single individual, 138 percent of the FPL computes to just over $15,000 annually, and for a family of three, the FPL is $26,000.
If you aren’t sure if you qualify for Medicaid or public insurance, don’t worry. Everybody will fill out one application, and if they qualify for Medicaid or the Marketplace, they’ll receive those benefits.
Hopefully this blog entry provides a cursory roadmap for navigating the long, winding road of health reform. It’s certainly much more complex than any single post can cover, so stay tuned to Inside Story throughout the year, as we unfold ObamaCare piece by piece.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive website at the intersection of ObamaCare and HIV/AIDS, visit HIVHealthReform.org.
Philip Englert wants people to recognize him as he was in the 1980s. It’s understandable. He was strong, handsome; his face was chiseled, and he had a head full of thick, light brown hair.
Philip worked in many capacities on Chicago’s elite restaurant scene, and he loved it. Sharing delicious food and drink with great people was more than a passion, it was a way of life. But everything changed in 2002 when he was diagnosed with advanced-stage throat cancer.
This was the second major diagnosis Philip received in a decade. In the mid-90s, he was diagnosed with AIDS; however with adequate care and appropriate medication, he was able to manage his HIV.
But his cancer diagnosis was different.
Philip faced a decision few people can imagine. “Because I was severely aspirating, doctors said that they could perform a laryngectomy,” he recalled. “Or they could save my voice and insert a feeding tube in my abdomen.”
Philip opted for the former. He loved food and the thought of never tasting a meal again brought unimaginable pain.
For three years, Philip struggled with his condition and wound up on a path of depression, ending in 2005 with an attempted suicide. Philip was taken to a hospital, but that wasn’t enough to shake his despair. He was ready for systemic change and knew that he had to invest in it wholeheartedly.
Relinquishing his housing, Philip checked into a mental health hospital on Chicago’s North Side, where he was admitted for three months.
The man that emerged from that facility was different than the man that entered. It wasn’t the 1980’s version of Philip who returned to the world; it was the version that people recognize today: a bold man with a kind heart, warm facial features, and a smile that warrants a double take.
Despite his new appreciation for life, Philip could no longer work because he was only able to talk with a speaking device, leaving him in financial dire straits and relying on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). His monthly check, however, was significantly less than it could have been.
Since Philip worked in the food-service industry, much of his income went unreported. Because SSDI is based on the amount of money one pays into the system, Philip’s disability benefits seemed disproportionately low compared to the money he earned through employment.
Philip needed assistance in affording basic necessities, such as housing, and in 2008, help came in the form of a subsidy.
Thanks to a partnership between the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) and the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund (CLIHTF), the city set aside 79 units of affordable housing for people with HIV, and Philip was given a place to live—a place he still calls home.
A portion of his monthly check pays his rent, but the lion’s share is covered by CLIHTF. What’s more, Philip not only receives subsidized housing, but he receives case management through the Ryan White care program and the Division of Rehabilitation Services, and he receives housing advocacy services through Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS.
Seven months after opening the door to his new apartment, Philip attended his first annual Chicago Area Five-Year AIDS Housing Plan meeting, convened by AFC, and every year since, Philip has been in attendance. Soon after, he became a member of AFC’s AIDS Housing Advisory Council, where he is currently chairperson. He also co-facilitates Tenant Empowerment Seminars, teaching people about their rights as a renter.
“Leading these seminars has been a great experience for me,” Philip said. “I’m doing what I used to do: customer service.” It’s a life he will always strive to live because it’s who he is—and no disease or physical condition can take that away from him.
Though he doesn’t have a larynx, Philip’s voice is strong and powerful.
“I’m looking for ways to give back to the AIDS housing sector,” he said, “because without it, I don’t know where I would be. I live on SSDI, and if I did not have the housing subsidy, God only knows what would happen.”
He has been stably housed for years and is finally getting noticed.
During AFC’s 2013 Chicago Area Five-Year AIDS Housing Plan, Philip was recognized—but not for being the model he was in the 1980s. AFC recognized him for being the champion he is today, honoring him with the Lonnie Fulton AIDS Housing Advocate of the Year Award.
Smooth Transition: TEAM TO END AIDS Continues to Make Strides with New Leadership
Written by Ryan Singleton
Monday, June 03, 2013
TEAM TO END AIDS (T2), a fundraising arm of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) that trains participants for distance runs and triathlons, is thrilled to welcome Keefer Pulford as an interim Manager of Endurance Events, effective immediately.
After eight years as a participant with T2 and over a year as Manager, Kevin Ciacco will leave AFC to enroll in nursing school fulltime.
“Kevin helped T2 get to a great place,” said David Ernesto Munar, President/CEO of AFC. “Comparing this month with early June last year, we have more participants registered now, and we’ve generated more revenue. This speaks volumes of Kevin’s work and highlights T2’s stalwart infrastructure. Keefer will be able to pick up right where Kevin left off.”
Though AFC will greatly miss Kevin’s leadership at training sights and in the office, Keefer has deep ties to T2 and is a strong advocate in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Keefer, 41, acknowledges that many participants in T2 are in their 20s and 30s and might not remember the height of the AIDS epidemic in the early 90s.
“There’s a time when this younger crowd needs a little more education,” Keefer said. “HIV is often overlooked and not given the attention it deserves. Many people think that we have these pills nowadays that allow people to live a happy life, but it’s not always a happy life. There’s so much more to HIV; there’s stigma and injustice. I just want to be a part of T2 to let people know that what they are doing is affecting this whole community, and it’s deconstructing these barriers in a profound way.”
Keefer loves the camaraderie with T2, and he wears his team-branded singlet whenever he races, even if he’s not in Chicago.
“I recently ran the Cincinnati Half Marathon, Chicago Spring Half Marathon, and Soldier Field 10 Miler,” Keefer said, “and I started crying every time I looked down at my shirt. It’s that emotional. You’ve got this community supporting you, and it reminds you of the people you’ve lost and the people you want to stay alive.”
Kevin can identify with this emotional connection to the program.
During the end-of-training Triumph Parties for the Chicago Lifetime Tri and Steelhead Ironman 70.3 last year, Kevin stood before his athletes and cried.
“I just looked into the crowd and saw all these people that I helped grow,” Kevin said. “Many were people that kept saying, ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do this,’ but they did, and they were sitting out there, waiting for their race the next day. They were going to do it. After helping them raise thousands of dollars for AFC and training them over hundreds of miles, they finally made it. That’s what I’m going to miss most about this job: the people.”
Keefer was once one of those faces. His introduction to T2 actually came through the AIDS Run & Walk, where he met several individuals training for the Chicago Marathon. He always wanted to compete in a 26.2-mile race, so it didn’t take much encouragement to get him to sign up during T2’s next registration cycle.
He was hooked on marathon running after that and began to look for other ways he could share his talents with AFC.
Keefer joins Cecilia Boyd and Ali Vos as a manager, and together they hit the ground running, preparing for the Chicago Triathlon Season Kickoff Event on June 14. The event convenes in Millennium Park, where participants don their wetsuits, goggles, and running shoes in order to complete a 1.5-mile dash to Ohio Street Beach for a dip in Lake Michigan.
“I’m thrilled to be here,” Keefer said. “Kevin did a great job with this program. It’s strong, it’s growing, and I’m eager to take it to the next level.”
Do you ever feel there are critical advances in HIV/AIDS prevention that aren't being properly covered in the mainstream media? Or that there are complex HIV/AIDS-related healthcare and funding issues not being clearly explained? Or that there are powerful HIV/AIDS stories here in Chicago just waiting for someone to tell them? We feel that way, too!
At the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), we’re committed to changing the story of HIV/AIDS. Inside Story aims to take you inside that story, to give you an intimate look at how AFC, and other Chicago and national organizations, are fighting HIV/AIDS through medical, housing and support services; cutting-edge research into prevention and treatment methods; and advocacy for stronger HIV-AIDS public policy from legislators.