By David Struett
Michelle Obama welcomed leaders from Harold Washington College and nearly 60 other schools to the White House Jan. 13 for their completion of the Healthy Campus Challenge, an Obamacare enrollment program, just one day after Congress began dismantling the health care law.
The White House hosted the event and created the criteria for the Healthy Campus Challenge, which included holding health care sign-up events on campus, emailing students about open enrollment deadlines and using social media to spread the word about enrollment.
The goal of the Healthy Campus Challenge was to sign up students for healthcare, according to a White House press release.
HWC President Margie Martyn attended the meeting along with Wellness Center Manager Eric Crabtree-Nelson and Student Activities Director A. Angela Guernica.
Martyn participated in a panel discussion where she learned that other universities used their schools of public health to promote the health care open enrollment.
HWC utilized flatscreens and the school’s blog as a creative way to spread the word, said Martyn. Harold Washington stood apart from the other schools in the way it involved students and student government in its outreach.
“I didn’t hear many people talk about using their students,” said Martyn.
“A lot of the times it seemed like administrators and staff kind of doing a lot of the outreach. But having our students compel other students was good,” she said.
As President Trump and his administration begin their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, HWC students who depend on Obamacare and Medicaid may have questions about what will happen to their own health care.
“In terms of the dismantling of the A.C.A., I think we’re in a little bit of reactive mode for what we’ll be able to do. You know, we’re not sure yet,” said Wellness Center Manager Eric Crabtree-Nelson.
“We’ll be here to provide as many resources as we can, but dismantling people’s healthcare has major implications. And, obviously, we’re for people having health care and making sure they get what they need,” he said.
Although the last day of open enrollment was Jan. 31, students can still receive direction from the Wellness Center to see their eligibility for Medicaid and other services, according to Crabtree-Nelson.
“We have lots of resources, whether that’s Cook County health care, Stroger Hospital, or whether that’s the CORE Center by Cook County. That’s where we send our folks who don’t have any money to afford our services,” he said.
The school organized signup events on campus with cooperation from Get Covered Illinois and the Obamacare advocacy group Young Invincibles, which provided health care “navigators” who worked with students individually for the sign-up, according to Crabtree-Nelson.
The school did not limit the outreach to just health care, but also informed students of other services available to them, such as the free HIV and STI testing, Medicaid, healthy food programs, Link and Snap.