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Sebelius visits Bridgeport clinic, promotes Obamacare
by Matt Simonette

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Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius visited Access Community Services Health Clinic, 3450 S. Archer Ave., July 25 to promote the upcoming launch of signups for insurance marketplace exchanges under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Sebelius has been an integral part of a national public relations campaign on behalf of ACA. Last year's Supreme Court decision that upheld most provisions of the legislation nevertheless said states could opt out of Medicaid expansion, one of its key provisions. Sebelius has been speaking nationwide both to rally constituent support for the expansion in states that have not signed on, or—in the case of Illinois, which has signed on—to call attention to the signup period beginning Oct. 1.

After a tour of the Access facility by CEO Donna Thompson, Sebelius participated in a panel discussion about ACA. She began by explaining that the visit to the Bridgeport location was to help spread the word in the Latino community.

"A third of the uninsured in this country are Latino," she said, adding, "About a quarter of the young uninsured are Latino. …Part of the goal now is getting out the information about the choices they have coming."

Community health centers will play an integral role. Sebelius said that $150 million was going to be invested in education and outreach at health centers across the country. "We have 1,200 centers (nationwide) and we think that just under 4 million people will be able to get information and access through an outreach site."

There are 18 community health centers in Chicago, which have collectively received $3 million in education and outreach resources, Sebelius added.

Individuals and families locked out of the insurance market could look forward to "a brand new day," she said. "For the millions of Americans with a pre-existing condition, who have found insurance to be unaffordable or just figured it's something they'd never have access to, those days are coming to an end. No one will ever be locked out of the market again because of a pre-existing health condition."

The insurance marketplace has been tremendously problematic for men and women with HIV/AIDS. Fewer than one in five HIV-positive individuals have access to health insurance, according to . Uninsured persons face tremendous medical expenses and, at the same time, must adhere unfailingly to their drug regimes in order to keep healthy. Medicaid, Medicare and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provide assistance already, but many people fall through the cracks.

The ACA will address many of their issues with the system, said Sebelius.

"Affordable coverage will mean people can actually get their medications and stay on them, which we know is essential for care, treatment and living a full life," she added. "So I would say that this is probably the biggest step we've ever taken in this country to make sure that—whether someone is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, high blood pressure or diabetes—they will actually be able to get the care they need and live a full and productive life."

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