On a visit to the Hill Health Center, U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy came across the “perfect example” of how Obamacare can save lives and save money: Willie Hill’s colonoscopy.
Murphy met Hill (pictured), and learned about the health of Hill’s colon, during a Wednesday morning visit to Hill Health on Columbus Avenue. He stopped by to check in on the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare.
Hill Health now has seven “assistors” on site to help sign people up for Obamacare, which opened for enrollment on Oct. 1. Assistor Nancee Carpenter helped get Willie Hill more Medicaid coverage, thanks to the expansion of that national health care program under Obamacare. Hill, who’s 52, will be able to get the colonoscopy he needs. That, Murphy pointed out, could be a lifesaver for Hill, and it could be a money-saver for taxpayers, who will be less likely to pay for an emergency room visit by Hill.
Nationally, the rollout of Obamacare has been plagued by glitches with the new website. Connecticut, however, is faring better than most states, Murphy said.
Carpenter said Connecticut’s website has not been glitch-free. When she put in her official assistor certification number, “it kept telling me I didn’t exist,” Carpenter told the senator when he arrived in the entryway of the health center Wednesday.
The site has been fixed as of this week, Carpenter said. She said she has signed up about four people for Obamacare so far this week and met with about 14. Most of the sign-ups so far have been for expanded Medicaid, not for the “bronze, silver, and gold” plans available in the state’s new health care “exchange.” Click here for an explanation of how the system works.
“It’ll take people a little while to pick their plan and sign up,” said Murphy. People will go for the expanded Medicaid first, because it’s familiar, he said. “I would imagine the Medicaid will be an easier immediate sell.”
Carpenter led Murphy into the waiting room to meet Hill.
“I have high blood pressure. I have sugar,” Hill told Murphy, referring to diabetes. Hill, a landscaper, is also blind in one eye and disabled. He said he hasn’t worked in a year and a half. After Jan. 1, 2014, he’ll be able to get the colonoscopy he needs, Carpenter said.
“Your story is exactly why we’re doing this,” said Murphy.
Carpenter introduced Murphy to Gayle Baxter (pictured), a 63-year-old that Carpenter helped sign up for expanded Medicaid coverage. She was less sanguine about her new health care.
Baxter said her daughter and son-in-law own a restaurant in West Haven, and their health insurance costs keep rising. “Who’s allowing them to go up?”
Murphy said the small-business portion of Obamacare, still a year away, will help her daughter.
“I’d like to have that faith,” Baxter said. “He [Obama] changes things as he goes.”
On Medicaid, Baxter said, “I see people that don’t need it that have it. I need it and have to wait.”
After Hill Health CEO Michael Taylor (pictured) led Murphy on a tour of the facility, the senator met 26-year-old Mallory David, who was just sitting down with Carpenter to sign up for Obamacare. David said she’s unemployed after giving up two part-time jobs for a full-time position that fell through.
Murphy asked David (pictured) to “spread the word” about Obamacare.
“The roll-out has gone better than we could have expected in Connecticut,” Murphy said. The “early numbers” are better than expected.
“Patience is important,” Murphy said.
Asked about the national trouble with the Obamacare website, Murphy said he’s “confident that President Obama has the right people working on it.”
People should remember that healthcare reform is not just the website, he said. He said the signup-by-telephone system is working fine.