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It still brings tears to Jo Yates’ eyes when she thinks of it.
An associate professor at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College, she recalls a student who had a persistent earache during the semester she was in one of Yates’ classes. The student didn’t have health insurance, so she left the infection untreated. By the end of the semester, the student had lost her eardrum.
In the 10 years Yates has worked at ECTC, similar stories have played out again and again in her classrooms. Students have suffered from various ailments and illnesses but a lack of insurance stopped them from seeking treatment. If they sought treatment, usually it was through an emergency room.
Yates, program coordinator for human services, believes many ECTC students will benefit from the new provisions in the Affordable Care Act. With open enrollment beginning in October, Yates created a service learning project for her students that will share information about the opportunities for the public.
Many of the students are pursuing careers in social work, and this will give them the opportunity to practice connecting people to services that meet their needs, something they will do in their careers.
“This gives them an opportunity to actually do it,” Yates said.
Student Brandy Burden is working on the project, but she also hopes to benefit from the new law. Burden’s employer doesn’t offer health insurance and she can’t afford a private plan.
“I could use medical insurance and now we’re finally getting a way to get it,” Burden said.
Now she can help others in the same situation.
“I’m just looking forward to helping the community,” she said.
Yates and her students are hosting an information session about the new law at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 in room 212 of the Regional Postsecondary Education Center. Insurance agent Jeannie Samdani will present details about what will be offered and the income guidelines for the free and subsidized insurance. The event is open to the community.
The forum also includes a panel of various experts who can answer questions from the audience.
About 600,000 uninsured Kentuckians will be able to receive free or subsidized insurance.
About half will be eligible for Medicaid, and the other half will be able to receive insurance at a lower cost, according to information provided by Yates.
Those whose income is below 400 percent of the federal poverty line could be eligible for subsidized insurance, while those earning below 138 percent of the poverty line could eligible for Medicaid, according to information provided by Yates.
The federal poverty line for a household of one person is $11,490, for instance. The line for a family of four is $23,550.
The students will also be running information booths at various times on campus, and handing out brochures to organizations that deal with the impacted populations. The college also will have a computer lab in room 201 of the RPEC building open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 1 to sign up for insurance online. Questions about the program also will be answered during that time.
The students also are working with Lincoln Trail Area Development District, which also provides information.
Yates said she saw a need for spreading information about the new law because many students didn’t understand its details.
“The problem is it sounds too good to be true, nobody believes it,” she said.
She’s discussed the upcoming enrollment period in some classes, and she often finds students are surprised they could be eligible for affordable or free health care.
“They’re shocked, they are shocked,” she said.
Student Amanda Johnson said she has received positive reactions to this point.
“Most people I’ve talked to seem like they’re glad,” she said.
Yates said while many people don’t support the new law, she said the project is not to debate its merits but to inform residents of what services are available to them.
Yates is happy now to have a resource to direct those ailing students toward when they need medical treatment.
“I felt helpless for years,” she said.
Kelly Cantrall can be
reached at 270-505-1747 or kcantrall@thenews