Group Rushes To Sign Up Uninsured Before Deadline

By  Stina Sieg
February 26, 2014

(Photo by Stina Sieg-KJZZ)
Sean Kornegay from Enroll America is trying to help as many people as possible sign up before the Afforable Care Act's March 31 deadline. His nonprofit has a "ground game" in 11 states, including Arizona.

There is still time to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, for now. Open enrollment ends March 31 and will not open again until November. As the deadline nears, a national group is working to sign up as many people as possible, especially in the states with the highest populations of uninsured, but it is not easy going in Arizona.

Last week, Sean Kornegay was standing outside the public library in central Phoenix. He was trying to have a conversation about health insurance, with anyone would listen. Kornegay works for Enroll America, which connects people with health insurance options. Across 11 states, people like Kornegay are part of a "ground game," basically stopping strangers and asking if they would like to learn about signing up for health care or changing their plan.

Kornegay walked up to a man in his 40s who looked like he could not be bothered. After asking if the man was had insurance and was satisfied with it (yes being the answer), Kornegay asked if he might be interested in learning about new plans.

“Not at all,” the guy replied.

“Not at all?” Kornegay asked.

“Excuse me,” the man said shortly as he continued to walked away.

And that is how it goes about five out of six times. Kornegay does not take it personally, and it does not keep him from approaching everyone he can. That is because some of these strangers might already have insurance but need a better plan. Others might be eligible for Medicaid and not know it.

“With the economy being the way it is today, you never know who has and who doesn’t have, who’s covered, who isn’t covered,” Kornegay said. “So you have to be willing to speak any individual and not formulate a previous concept of what their response is going to be, because you really don’t know.”

Enroll America knows which parts of the city have the highest concentration of uninsured people, like Maryvale and South Central Phoenix. Cheryl O’Donnell is the state director for the organization. She said the group is looking for new ways to reach people in these spots, like setting up temporary stations where they can browse insurance plans.

“So that whether you go to buy coffee or you go to a library, or you go to get your taxes done, that there will be a computer there and someone there that can help you complete your application,” O'Donnell explained.

Whether you like this law or hate it, the end-of-March deadline is coming. Those who still do not have insurance by then face a $95 penalty. Arizona has a high percentage of uninsured people, 18 percent. So, they should be easy to find, in theory.

Back to Kornegay. His canvassing took him to an apartment complex in Central Phoenix, and it was not going well. He knocked on door after door, but no one was answering. So he left pamphlets and kept moving.

Then, he had success, kind of. He finally reached Carlos Montufar’s door. Not only was he home but he was happy to talk. Turned out that Montufar, a dancer who also works at a school district, already has insurance, but many of his friends do not.

“It’s like the root is pulled from underneath the family,” Montufar said, “because if mom and dad are sick, who’s going to take care of the kids?”

So Montufar offered to volunteer for Enroll America. Kornegay said that is another big way his group connects to people who still need insurance.

“Certainly people we wouldn’t have been able to reach out had we not been out here for this hour of time today,” Kornegay explained. “So, it’s good to able to make that connection, and we’ll work to develop it as the days and weeks pass.”

And that is especially important with little more than four weeks before a very big deadline.