Enquirer, by Cindy Schroeder – For the first time in years, Covington resident Will Wooten has been able to get preventive treatment for his asthma.
Wooten, who lost his job several years ago and couldn’t afford health insurance, was the first person to sign up for insurance through the federal Affordable Care Act last fall at Madison Avenue Christian Church in Covington. He, along with about 25 to 30 people who have no permanent address, have had their medical cards sent to the church.
About 3½ years ago, Wooten had lost his apartment and was camping at various places in Covington when the senior minister at Madison Avenue Christian Church offered to let him stay in a house on church property in exchange for serving as the groundskeeper and volunteering at various church activities.
“Before I had a health card, I’d go to the hospital, they’d give me a breathing treatment for my asthma and boot me out the door,” Wooten said. “Now that I have insurance, they give me the full treatment (including) the medicines that I need at a cost I can afford. Their whole demeanor changes when you’ve got that health card.”
Since November, certified kynectors have stopped by Madison Avenue Christian Church on Monday nights to help homeless people and the working poor enroll in a health insurance plan through Kynect, Kentucky’s benefits exchange set up as part of the Affordable Care Act. Sign-ups were offered during one of two weekly community meals the church serves. The meals draw everyone from homeless men to young families trying to stretch their food budgets to grandparents raising grandchildren.
“For a lot of these people, it’s the first time they’ve had health insurance,” said Margie Meehan, kynector regional supervisor with the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission. “In the past, some of them didn’t get the treatment they needed, or they struggled to get medicines. Having health insurance changes all that.”
Many of those who lack health insurance don’t own computers or have access to one, so kynectors have taken their laptops to various Northern Kentucky locations to sign up uninsured Kentuckians. Applicants also must have a mailing address and a photo ID.
Besides Madison Avenue Christian Church, Meehan said kynectors from the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission have reached out to hard-to-reach uninsured Kentuckians at that agency’s neighborhood centers in Boone, Kenton, Campbell, Pendleton, Grant and Gallatin counties. Kynectors from the Community Action Commission also have done sign-ups at the Women’s Residential Addiction Program House in Covington, Brighton Recovery Center in Florence, Droege House in Dayton, the York Street House in Newport and Faith Community Pharmacy, a charitable pharmacy in Florence.
Holly Lawrence, an employee of the Northern Kentucky Area Development District, which serves eight Northern Kentucky counties, also is scheduling appointments with Kentuckians who need help enrolling in a health insurance plan before the enrollment period ends March 31.
Athough kynectors will no longer help with general health insurance sign-ups at Madison Avenue Christian Church, Meehan said kynectors from that agency will continue to help Kentuckians determine if they are eligible for Medicaid.
When Alexandria resident B.J. Whitmer bruised his spinal cord during a wrestling match in August, that became his wakeup call to get health insurance. He had started his career as a professional wrestler in 1999, and he’d been doing that ever since, save for a break from 2008-11 to manage a GNC store.
Today, Whitmer, 36, is a student at Gateway Community and Technical College, and he’s applied to nursing school at Northern Kentucky University. He hopes to become a nurse anesthetist.
Although Whitmer had access to a computer, he kept getting logged off when he tried to enroll in health insurance through Kynect. His mother, Kaye Whitmer, who volunteers at Madison Avenue Christian Church, suggested he sign up there.
“I tried to enroll probably 10 times on different computers, but it kept saying my password wasn’t correct, even when I reset it,” he said.
After turning to Meehan for help Monday night, she helped Whitmer enroll in an affordable insurance plan in about 15 minutes. On April 1, he’ll have coverage for the first time in three years.
“Now that I have insurance, it’s like a weight’s been lifted off me,” he said. ⬛
To get health insurance• Go to kynect.ky.gov or call 855-4kynect (459-6328) or TYY: 1-855-326-4654To use a kynector to help• Call the Northern Kentucky Community Action Commission at 859-581-6607 ext. 2988.• Call Holly Lawrence at the Northern Kentucky Area Development District at 859-692-2480 for information on health insurance through Kynect or to schedule an appointment for help.