U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services visits AFC to discuss Open Enrollment

November 8, 2021

By Bailey Williams

CHICAGO -- Today, AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) was thrilled to host a private roundtable discussion about open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act with U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, Rep. Lauren Underwood of Naperville, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, and other community service providers and advocates.  

Though all residents are currently able to purchase a new health insurance plan through the marketplace, today’s roundtable conversation centered the unique health access needs of people living with and disproportionately impacted by HIV, as well as other people who have special health needs.  

"While the marketplace plans do provide affordable health insurance for some folks, some of these qualified health plans fail to do so for people (living) with HIV, because (they) still allow their medications to be out of reach," said AFC medical benefits specialist Luricela Arguello during the roundtable conversation. "Here in Illinois...many of these drugs are (set at) unaffordable rates." 

According to the Getting to Zero Illinois Dashboard, only 68% of people diagnosed with HIV in the past five years were engaged in health care in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available. That means more than 11,000 people living with HIV in Illinois lacked access to needed health resources. This number remains so high because of systemic factors that hinder people living with HIV, including the lack of affordable and stable housing, supportive services, adequate income, health care costs and other social determinants of health.  

Today’s conversation gave AFC’s health insurance enrollers and other advocates a chance to share these barriers to health care directly with city, state and national health officials. AFC staff also had a chance to share past successes, challenges and opportunities to improve health care access moving forward. 

“Conversations like today’s are so important in making sure the needs of people living with HIV are prioritized during open enrollment season,” said AFC President/CEO John Peller. “We cannot end the HIV epidemic without ensuring each person living with HIV has health insurance and other supportive resources they need to thrive.” 

AFC staff brought a wealth of knowledge to today’s conversation informed by years of service. Each year during open enrollment, AFC’s medical benefits coordinators help Illinois residents in need of new health insurance coverage find an Affordable Care Act marketplace plan and complete the application forms before the Jan. 15 deadline. The work is vital to AFC’s efforts to end the HIV epidemic by ensuring people living with and disproportionately impacted by HIV are connected to quality health care. 

Open enrollment began Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 15. If you, a friend or a family member are interested in learning more about new health care options, please call AFC’s informational hotline at 312-784-9060 to speak with a medical benefits coordinator to set up an in-person meeting. The phone line is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  


Categorized under Advocacy, AFC news, Chicago and Health insurance.

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