Richman said even after VIM’s clients acquire health insurance, they need help learning how to use it. She said studies show a large percentage of newly insured individuals revert to using hospital emergency departments, because that’s what they’re familiar with.
“A lot of people think that because some people now have marketplace plans and have enrolled in HIP, that they will magically know how to use their insurance,” Richman said. “But it will take years for people to be successful in using the insurance-based health care system. At this point, they don’t know how to choose a doctor, how to call and make an appointment or how to fill out forms.”
Richman said VIM, along with IU Health Bloomington Hospital, private practices and physician groups, is trying to help the newly insured learn how to use their insurance coverage.
“Another misunderstanding in the community is that now that we have the ACA, everyone is insured,” she said.
“Before the ACA, there were about 15,000 uninsured people in Monroe and Owen counties living in households at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and during the open enrollment period, we’ve signed up about 3,600 people for health insurance or other benefits in the entire southern tier of the IU Health region. That’s a drop in the bucket, leaving thousands in our region uninsured. It may take years for a critical mass of people in our community to become insured.”
Richman said she hopes to see the day when a vast majority of people in our area are insured.
“If VIM goes out of business because there is no longer a need for a free medical clinic, we will have a big party, because that would mean all people living in poverty could access affordable health insurance and health care providers,” she said. “But I don’t see that happening in the foreseeable future, and as long as there is a need in our community, VIM will be there to meet it.”