In the fall, the Jackson County United Way board learned 11 out of every 100 Jackson County residents didn’t have health care.
Board members decided to try to tackle the issue by becoming a lead agency with Covering Kids & Families of Indiana, which advocates for health care coverage for all Hoosiers.
Susan Jo Thomas, executive director of that organization, knows the difference establishing local coalitions makes.
“Last year, CKF-IN coalitions expanded to 19 coalitions, a 36 percent increase,” Thomas said.
She said coalitions help children, families and individuals sign up for and understand the health care coverage that is available to them through state and federal programs.
Tonja Couch, executive director of Jackson County United Way, said the opportunity to become a coalition to increase access to health coverage is meeting an unmet need and creating stronger partnerships.
Access to health care and the means to pay for it affects the financial stability of individuals and families by reducing health-related debt, increasing workplace productivity and enabling them to spend more in the local economy, Couch said.
Currently, the total of uninsured individuals in Jackson County is 4,750, or 11 percent of the county’s 42,995 people, according to CKF-IN.
“When Covering Kids & Families approached us about the middle of last year about our uninsured rates, it was the perfect opportunity to engage,” Couch said.
The United Way board reflected on the community conversation findings regarding the need to provide supportive services to people who are working but struggling to make ends meet, and the timing to become a lead agency with CKF-IN made sense, she said.
Couch said not having health coverage can basically put people in a tailspin of debt and can quickly create an unstable future for them financially.
Couch said the local coalition is completely funded by Covering Kids & Families of Indiana, which is a nonprofit organization. No United Way campaign dollars are going toward this program.
The program didn’t launch in Jackson County until February because staff needed to be hired first.
Couch said the CKF coalition is countywide, and they are still hiring and recruiting.
“We’re out on a weekly basis promoting this, like at health fairs, Kids Fest, kindergarten registration and any kind of community event where we know there will be families and children,” Couch said. “We are out there asking people if they have insurance, and if they don’t, we can be their organization to get information out to.”
The United Way is currently searching for a bilingual outreach and enrollment specialist.
Stephanie Strothmann came aboard and started her position as community impact director of Jackson County United Way in February.
“Stephanie has a deep desire to serve the community and build strong partnerships to ensure that those who need health coverage have access to it,” Couch said. “When CKF-IN came to us, they said they would help us get this program launched.”
CKF-IN has been a huge support to train Strothmann and get her the Indiana Navigator certification that she needed, Couch said.
Born and raised in Seymour, Strothmann moved to Columbus for about 20 years then came back to her hometown.
“I was looking for a way to give back to my community, the community I grew up in,” Strothmann said. “I saw an opportunity to come back to my hometown and make a difference, and I jumped at it.”
Strothmann said she knew Seymour as it was when she was growing up, and it had a buzz to it and a vibe, which waned a little bit. Now, it’s coming back, and she’s excited to be a part of that re-energizing.
She said the CKF program helps provide residents the opportunity for health care coverage.
“So often, those without insurance will go to the emergency department for what would normally be a doctor’s visit because they know that they will receive care,” Strothmann said. “When that happens, for one thing, they will not be receiving ongoing care because they make one visit and they’re done.”
She said having health care coverage means they can have a primary care physician, which eases the strain on the medical community.
“So often, they may have to write that expense off, and when that happens, the costs are going to go up,” Strothmann said. “This is because they have to make up that difference, and this kind of balances that out.”
Strothmann said anyone can set up an appointment to come in and ask questions about health insurance, and then eligibility can be determined.
“It all just depends. They might qualify for Medicaid, or depending on income levels, they might qualify for Marketplace,” Strothmann said. “We can go through and compare the various plans.”
She said the insurance world is confusing, but the beauty of it is, through CKF, they have so many resources that should they not know the answer to a question, they can find the answer for that person through that network.
Through each CKF coalition in Indiana, there is a certified navigator, and some organizations have more than one.
“The navigators are certified by the state of Indiana to be able to enroll people in insurance,” Strothmann said. “So it’s similar to a tax preparer where they have to receive a certain certification in order to do someone’s taxes.”
The CKF organization already has been receiving clients, and it is trying to get the word out as much as possible that it is there to help.
The state has determined that open enrollment for health care this year will begin Nov. 1 and run through Dec. 15, a much shorter time than years past. Currently, CKF is in a special enrollment period.
“What that basically means is things can happen and someone might become pregnant and not have health insurance, so that would qualify as a special enrollment,” Strothmann said. “Or maybe the breadwinner of the family lost a job and their insurance was suddenly gone, that would also qualify as special enrollment.”
CKF also has resources the United Way can offer at its disposal.
“We can provide information on housing if people need that or food pantries and any number of things like that,” Strothmann said. “That’s one of the benefits with being a part of Jackson County United Way — so many resources being at their disposal.”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Statistics: Insured/Uninsured Jackson County Residents” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Age group;Insured;Uninsured;Uninsured % Pop.
6 to 17;6,743;393;8.3
18 to 24;2,782;558;11.7
25 to 34;4,270;1,085;22.8
35 to 44;5,061;798;16.8
45 to 54;5,136;858;18.1
55 to 64;4,748;721;15.2
65 to 74;3,677;2;0.0
Source: Covering Kids & Families of Indiana (numbers are year-to-date)
[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
How to make an appointment with a certified Indiana Navigator
1. Visit the Jackson County United Way website at jacsy.org.
2. Click on the “Our Impact” header at the top of the page.
3. Scroll down the menu and click on “Covering Kids and Families.”
4. Scroll to the “Schedule Appointment” button, click and enter your information.
If you would prefer to talk in person, contact Stephanie Strothmann at 812-271-1782 or [email protected] to learn more about becoming a partner in this effort or to schedule an appointment.