Labor Secretary Praises UM and Jackson for Affordable Care Act Registrations

U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, speaking at Jackson Memorial Hospital on January 16, praised the role played by the hospital and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in assisting area residents with registration for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Access to healthcare is a civil right,” said Perez. “It is inconsistent with our values as a nation to have more than 40 million people without it.” He noted that Miami alone has nearly 150,000 uninsured young adults, the third most of any city in the U.S. He also outlined the $51 billion in financial benefit, and coverage for 19 million currently uninsured people that would come from approval of the Obama administration’s proposed Medicaid expansion. But, he added, “the focus now is on registration.”

Then, turning to UM President Donna E. Shalala and Carlos A. Migoya, President and CEO of Jackson Health System, he said, “I am so appreciative of the leadership that you have demonstrated here in South Florida.”

Perez added that the one-on-one approach to assisting patients with ACA registration is making a difference. “Many people – especially Latinos – need help navigating the website,” he said. “You are my MVPs.”

Shalala acknowledged that UM’s working jointly with Jackson on the implementation of the ACA is an example of how the two institutions are “intrinsically tied to each other. This partnership is critical to the people of our community.”

Jackson Health System has been using employee experts, called “navigators,” to provide ACA website assistance to patients and visitors while they are at one of its six facilities. Jackson is a community hospital system, and many of those seeking care, and their families, are uninsured – one of the key groups for whom the ACA was written.

“Healthcare is sometimes politicized, but health is a non-partisan issue,” said Migoya. “We must give every patient the best chance to thrive. The ACA is an opportunity for many people to have healthcare for the first time in their lives. It is important work, and we are proud to share in it.”

Maria Belen Coro, who has been one of the Jackson navigators since September, also spoke. “The tax credit is a strong incentive for most patients,” she said. “Many don’t realize they have to apply, but we can register an entire family in 30 to 60 minutes.”

Soon the navigators will be joined by specially trained Miller School students – future physicians who share an interest in healthcare policy and community service. Mark T. O’Connell, M.D., Senior Associate Dean for Educational Development and holder of the Bernard Fogel Chair in Medical Education, says the goal is to have 50 students trained as CACs, Certified Application Counselors, by the end of January, and 100 trained before mid-February. The training is conducted through the University of Miami Mitchell Wolfson Sr. DOCS Program, in cooperation with the Health Council of South Florida.

Time is short to enroll consumers before March 31, the extended deadline for purchasing health insurance under the ACA. A number of enrollment events are planned over the next 10 weeks. People interested in obtaining assistance can call the DOCS Program office at 305-243-4898 for additional information.

The first student trainees are excited to begin helping out. Daniel Salahuddin, from Bradenton, Fla., is a first-year student in the M.D./M.P.H. program. “I want to work on alleviating health disparities in my career,” he said. “This program is the type of thing that drew me to UM.”

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