Cook County takes steps toward collective health care
Joined by colleagues to create a robust health care system for the uninsured, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle recently announced plans for countywide coverage through the Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS).
“The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been instrumental in providing new insurance opportunities to more than 16 million Americans,” Preckwinkle said. “Yet, there are still too many people in our community who remain uninsured.”
While CCHHS previously extended financial assistance to low-earning constituents — even offering sliding scale discounts based on income — the plans visualize a more official platform. Flanking Preckwinkle during the announcement were Commissioners Bridget Gainer, Jesús Garcia and Robert Steele, and representatives of the Healthy Communities Cook County (HC3) Coalition.
“Health care is a human right,” Dr. Jay Shannon, CEO of CCHHS, said. “A person should be able to receive the necessary proactive medical care they need to live a healthy life and not have to only rely on emergency care when they are acutely ill.”
With over half of uninsured consumers maintaining few or no regular health care resources, many forego preventative care routines such as annual checkups. Lacking provider connections, an uninsured individual is far more likely to develop urgent problems over time due to poor screening and no early detection systems in place.
CCHHS patient and community activist Jose Manuel is living proof, having suffered an amputation that could have been avoided with early intervention.
“I suffered a leg amputation and other diabetes-related complications because I could not afford regular health care, but now thousands of county residents will … have access to affordable preventative health care on a regular basis," Manuel said.
Since the ACA's passage, CCHHS has documented a dramatic decrease in uninsured patients — falling from 55 percent in 2013 to 32 percent in 2015 — but Cook County officials want to make that statistic even lower.
“Such a coordinated health program will improve access to care for uninsured Cook County residents and reinforce Cook County Health & Hospitals System’s 180-year-old mission to care for all, regardless of ability to pay,” Preckwinkle said.
Of an estimated 900,000 uninsured Illinois individuals, a majority reside in Cook County.
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