Obamacare’s Grassroots Campaign Hits Dixwell

Gilad Edelman PhotoAdrian Jackson knew she needed to get health insurance. She didn’t know there was an office in downtown New Haven where she could get help signing up.

Jackson (at right in photo) learned about the office from Dixwell Alder Jeanette Morrison (at left), who was canvassing the neighborhood as part of an effort to get people to comply with the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) by enrolling in the Connecticut health insurance exchange, Access Health CT.

Morrison was one of 35 volunteers who set out Saturday from the Access Health storefront at 55 Church St. to go door-to-door spreading the word about the new health law. The canvassing effort, which was sponsored by the Black and Hispanic Caucus of the New Haven Board of Alders with assistance from Planned Parenthood, was part of the statewide push to get people signed up for health insurance before March 31. People who fail to sign up by that date will incur a tax penalty.

The success of Connecticut’s insurance exchange, which has already passed its March 31 target for enrollments, has been a bright spot in the troubled national launch of Obamacare. But according to Access Health, which tracks insurance data by zip code, more than 26,000 people still lack health coverage in New Haven. Saturday’s canvassing operation represented the next stage of the Obamacare rollout: a grassroots campaign to track down hard-to-find uninsured people in low-income neighborhoods and get them signed up, one by one.

Saturday’s volunteers went into neighborhoods where the uninsured appear most heavily concentrated: Dwight, the Hill, Fair Haven, Newhallville and Dixwell. The six alders whose wards cover those neighborhoods each led a team. The teams were divided into pairs, each pair armed with a stack of flyers and a neighborhood map with certain target streets highlighted. Their goal was to warn people about the tax penalty deadline and let them know they can get help enrolling at the Access Health storefront or by calling 1-855-805-4325.

Morrison, who organized the volunteer effort, compared it to a political campaign. Only more enjoyable.

“This is so much better than political canvassing,” she said. “During an election, you’re always asking people for something. With this, I’m giving them information that’s really helpful.”

Morrison’s Dixwell team was made up of Yale College Democrats, which meant her role was half canvasser, half chauffeur, as she alternated between going door to door on icy sidewalks and shuttling the Yalies home through snow-narrowed streets in her SUV.

At day’s end, the alders returned to Access Health to tally the statistics that the volunteers had been keeping track of on clipboards. The results: 1,037 doors knocked on, 289 conversations held.

Most of the people Morrison and her team talked to said they had insurance, but said they’d give the flyers to friends or family who didn’t. Morrison suspected that some were uninsured people just saving face.

“Something I know as a social worker is, you get some people who will say they have health insurance because they’re embarrassed that they really don’t,” she said.

Adrian Jackson, a landlord and case manager, admitted to being uninsured. She also asked for more flyers to give to the tenants of her house on Henry Street.

“I’m glad you gave me this, because I know some people who are employed, and the employer doesn’t want to supply them with health insurance anymore,” she said.

With blue skies and temperatures in the 40s, Saturday was balmy by recent standards; Morrison found more constituents on the street than in their houses. At one point, she interrupted a teenaged couple idling on the sidewalk.

“Excuse me, do you have health insurance?” she asked.

“I have it,” said Karem Anzurez (pictured). “But I’m on Husky A [Connecticut’s Medicaid program for children and parents] and I’m about to turn 18, and I don’t know what happens then.”

Morrison handed her a flyer and told her to call or go to Access Health to find out what she needed to do to stay insured.

“I will,” Anzurez said.

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posted by: beaverhillsnewhaven on February 24, 2014  7:04pm

Thank you to the members of the black and Hispanic caucus who door knocked over the weekend and got this important information out: Dolores colon, Delphine Clyburn, Santiago berrios-bones, frank Douglass and Evette Hamilton.  The racial wealth divide is driven in large part by disparities in health care issues.  Way to take initiative!

posted by: Walt on February 24, 2014  8:26pm

==And are the younger 20 to 40 or so folk from the City supposed to be dumb enough to   pay the super-high-premiums demanded of them to subsidize the slightly older folk favored by Obamacare.

And do those on Medicare realize that Obamacare took 3/4 of a TRILLION $$$$$  (NOT MILLION OR BILLION)  from Medicare funds to subsidize the start of Obamacare,  spent it on the ridiculously incompetent introduction of Obsmacare , and is in the process of taking more from the elderly for further Obamacare expenses?

I   know only one person who has gained from Obamacare,—a very nice lady ,  but I can’t   really afford the big increases   in co-pays and reductions in benefits from Medicare etc.  caused by the feds raiding of Medicare for Obamacare deficits,-to pay her subsidy each year .

(Prior to Obamacare,  my benefits would increase and /or co-pays would drop a bit each year to encourage me to stay with the same insurance carrier as a supplement,  The reverse is true since Obamacare came on the horizon)

Example:  I broke my hip in 2013.  If I had held off, and broke it this year instead,,  because of Obamacare effects on Medicare,  it would require about $3,ooo to $3,500   more out of my pocket.

And don’t forget, the Seniors paid taxes for Medicare while they were working and continue to pay   now from their meager social security or retirement   funds

Seniors near or on Medicare are nuts if they
believe Obama,  DeLauro or the new shills   soon to be visiting us They are out to screw young as well as old, and give to their supporters who may have never worked a day in their lives


posted by: Walt on February 25, 2014  7:11am

Please remove the word “shill”  from my   previous comment.

It is nor correct,

posted by: robn on February 25, 2014  10:06am

Sorry about your hip Walt. Hope you feel better.

posted by: Walt on February 25, 2014  12:04pm

Thanks, Robn, I am back to the new normal, I think.

Can’t complain (except on NHI)

posted by: Esbey on February 25, 2014  7:49pm

Walt, it is possible that your politics are influencing your perception.  As you probably know, the cuts to Medicare were entirely to providers and to the premiums paid to insurers providing Medicare Advantage plans.  A major reduction in payments to insurers follows from the requirement that only 15% of revenue can go to administrative (non-health care expenses.)  There were no reductions at all in traditional Medicare coverage, which you can choose if you want.

Furthermore, all reports are that competition in Medicare Advantage continues to keep premiums low and benefits similar to the past.  I helped my mother shop for Medicare Advantage and she got a better plan this year.  I am sorry that you didn’t manage to find a good Medicare Advantage plan, but most folks do. 

The most respected health policy researcher think tank, the Kaiser Family Foundation, says:

“Medicare Advantage choices available to beneficiaries in 2014 generally are similar to those in the past.  Average unweighted monthly plan premiums in 2014 are $49, down from $51 in 2013. Most beneficiaries (84%) will have access to a Medicare Advantage plan offered in their area for no additional premium.”

As for young folks and the ACA, many young folks benefit from being able to stay on their family plans until 26 and since young folks often have low incomes they benefit from subsidies.  Certainly many of the people canvassed in the described effort will obtain excellent ACA rates.  In the past, healthy young folks without access to employer insurance often gambled and went without insurance, throwing themselves on the mercy of doctors and hospitals when they got in an accident or got early cancer.  The ACA prevents that, which is good.

posted by: Walt on February 26, 2014  4:13pm


You cite Kaiser re access and premiums, to refute my post, but if you would read it again you will find I made no complaints re either of those issues

Your politics   seem to be interfering with your thoughts as you might have said

If you take money from such areas as suppliers and administration you have to make it up somewhere.  That is where increases in Co=pays or decrease in services   happens and that is where problems arise that is where I suffer,  and that is where Obamacare is screwing the old folks, 

Examples(from my policy),

A,Copays,  Specialists—up 66 2/3 % per visit since Obamacare

B,Therapy visits   Free last year,  $50 per visit, now with Obama   and last yearI required physical and occupational (,muscle)  and nurses visits for infection picked up in the hospital,  —up to   8 visits for weeks     AN EXTRA $400 PER WEEK FROM MY POCKET —UP TO 10 WEEKS NEEDED THEY SAY—

Apologize for all caps

—And as to your Kaiser study it is apparently national, not CT

As I recall from the annual plan comparison published by Medicare itself there are nowfewer Medicare Advantage Plans and Supplement Plans available in New Haven County now than pre Obamacare and one big insurer I believe either Connecticare or Blue Cross dropped out of the Medicare   competition after the Medicare booklet was published for 2014,  Don’t recall Kaiser offering any opportunity to CT Medicare folks but they may,

I used the Medicare   Booklet to compare plans being offered and chose to stay with the United,002   Plan but as you probably know , their comparison only covers   a few items,  and I did now know of the drastic therapy - cost changes re   therap etc.  coming up

If you did a deeper study re your mother’s costs would you tell us your choice and why so that we m

ight do the same next year   if it makes sense,Thanks

posted by: Esbey on February 26, 2014  5:06pm

Walter, we are the only ones reading this, but what the heck.

I think you are correct that the number of plans dropped both in CT and nationally and this might be because some plans became unprofitable.  I also agree that the money has to come from somewhere, but there are 3 options: providers, insurance administrative costs and senior benefits. Kaiser doesn’t find any big on-average changes nationally. 

Pre-ACA, the Feds were paying much more for Med Advantage Plans than traditional Medicare, whereas Advantage plans had been introduced by Newt Gringrich because they were supposed to be cheaper for the Feds.  I don’t know if it was fair to have a subset of seniors (those on Advantage plans) getting a bigger subsidy than others; it is that disparity that the ACA eliminated. 

My mother is in Ohio so I can’t help super-much there. I have found for quite a while (including before the ACA) that existing plans tend to get worse and PT co-pays are one big place they try to fool you.  Her PT co-pay went to $90(!) two years ago; she kept telling me it was a billing error so we went through a whole year before catching what really happened.  We switched her to a plan with a $35 co-pay and zero monthly premium (from Anthem to Aetna.) 

I definitely suggest shopping around, I think the insurance companies hope to catch you napping.

posted by: Walt on February 27, 2014  2:18pm


You may be right that we are the only folks reading this but I thought you would be interested in today’s latest release from the Kaiser Family Corp.

They now say 60 %  (58?)  of uninsured folks now oppose Obamacare,although they are the supposed beneficiaries of   Obama’s folly

Depending how much control the Kaiser insurance group has over the family foundation ,  maybe neither of us should consider it a Bible however.

posted by: Esbey on February 27, 2014  3:27pm

Walt, I saw that and I understand the irony.  Maybe they are upset about the troubles even logging on in the fall—if so, fair enough, as that was a true disaster. 

On the other hand, a clear overall majority in that poll are opposed to repealing the law, with large support for keeping but improving it.  Only a small fraction are in favor of repealing without replacement and going back to the old system.

Many folks (probably about 10-15%) oppose the current law “from the left” because they prefer single payer, universal Medicare or some simpler system.  I actually agree that for political reasons the ACA is really clunky and could be improved.