SEIU member Carmen Morales-Board [right] and other dedicated SEIU nurses nationwide will bring information about the new Affordable Care Act straight to patients inside their hospitals.
The thousands of school workers in the Los Angeles area who are members of SEIU Local 99 experience first-hand the impact a lack of health care has on students' school performance and the well-being of their families.
That's why this fall, as the Affordable Care Act's open enrollment for new affordable health care plans kicks into high gear, SEIU members and staff in California will be on the front lines of helping people signup for them. As a result, many of these Californians will have health insurance for the first time in their lives.
Come October 1st, millions of uninsured, hardworking Californians who don't get insurance through their employers and can't afford it on their own will be able to sign up to buy lower-cost healthcare coverage through new health marketplaces.
But they won't benefit from the new plans if they don't know about them.
In order for working men and women to have access to the same quality care that wealthy Americans do, they need to know the facts about their protections, benefits and choices under the healthcare law. SEIU California's members and staff will inform them about their choices and how the process works.
In Southern California, staff and members of SEIU Local 99 work with children from the Los Angeles Unified School District, which serves a high population of poor and disadvantaged students. In fact, approximately 10 percent of the country's uninsured citizens live in just four counties, Los Angeles County being one of them, according to data from Enroll America.
Local 99 Executive Director Courtni Pugh will lead state-trained staff in efforts to reach out to more than 15,000 school employees, parents and child care providers to inform them about how to now get the health insurance they've long needed.
"SEIU members see children fall behind in school simply because they can't get prescription eye glasses," said Pugh. "Other children end up missing weeks or months of school due to sickness that could have been treated at the start had they been able to see a doctor. Now that these new care options are here we need to get them into the hands of parents so students can benefit. "
In Northern California, members of Local 521 work in the healthcare field and see other devastating effects that a lack of health coverage has on people in their communities.
Registered nurse Carmen Morales-Board works at the Kern Medical Center in the Central Valley. She and a team of fellow nurses will be attending trainings on the new health insurance plans, and will then be able to talk to patients directly about their options. She also knows first-hand the life-saving and financial value that preventative care has on patients.
"I've seen the faces behind the academic studies on the value of preventative care," she said. "For every one dollar we spend on preventative care we save more than $5 in the long run. In fact I just saw a man with a clearly visible, grapefruit-sized tumor we had to remove. It's cancerous and has spread to his entire body. If he had access to early care, his tumor would have been spotted easily by a doctor and his life likely would have been saved. "
Passing the Affordable Care Act was a tremendous achievement and a moment of pride for SEIU members back in 2010. As additional states begin to join the movement in earnest, we hope SEIU locals and members will follow California's lead in informing as many working families as possible about the choices for affordable health insurance available under the new law.
In all states, we will deliver the message that we will not leave working Americans behind when it comes to access to affordable health coverage. We will not allow the Act's opponents to move this country backward and put our health and security at risk.
Lives hang in the balance. It's going to take all of us-union members, hospital leaders, public workers, healthcare provides, faith leaders and elected officials-to make sure working families live healthier, more financially secure lives.