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Johnson County is a desirable place to live. It is growing and becoming increasingly diverse. These are valuable attributes; they underscore the need to ensure an unwavering focus on ensuring good health for all.

In previous opinion surveys, our residents have been very clear about the need to focus on creating conditions that will improve their health. Healthy people reduce the burden of disease in the community and the health care system. Good health goes hand in hand with long life.

A healthier county is important to sustain the economic vitality of our cities, which will attract businesses and families. When data show that Johnson County has a healthy population, families will want to raise their children here and other adults will want to live here.

To become a healthier community, every resident of all race, gender, age, sexual orientation, must have access to good health care. Having affordable health insurance coverage for everyone in Johnson County is the way to achieve that.

Affordable health insurance allows preventive care for people to be evaluated and treated by medical professionals at lower cost. Affordable health insurance prevents hospitalizations and deaths.

The American Community Survey, conducted annually by the U.S. Census Bureau, shows that 6.1% of Johnson County residents were without health insurance coverage in 2019. That is 36,471 people who, perhaps, put off wellness visits, immunizations, cancer screenings or did not make appointments for conditions that, if caught early, could increase the chances of positive health outcomes.

When people leave conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure unmanaged because they cannot afford an office visit or prescription drugs, their health is adversely impacted. When they wait until they must go to the emergency room, it burdens an already stretched health care system.

The good news is that affordable health insurance coverage is available for everyone in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

As of Nov. 1, consumers are able to take advantage of the increased financial help on high-quality health care plans when they enroll in coverage through HealthCare.gov.

President Biden’s new American Rescue Plan has lowered premiums for most people and expanded access to financial help for others. Four in five customers are now able to find health coverage for $10 or less per month.

The new law provides greatly improved financial assistance, which should significantly lower premiums for plans that cover doctors’ visits, emergency care, preventive care, hospitalizations and prescription drugs.

Millions more people qualify for help. Previously, the tax credits called “financial help” were available to people who made less than 400% of the federal poverty level. Now, it is expanded to include families that make more than that.

When reviewing plans in the marketplace, some may find they qualify for coverage in the state’s Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Most Medicaid beneficiaries pay little or no premiums for their health coverage.

For those who are uninsured, those that do not have insurance through their employer, or if they are simply looking to find health coverage at a lower cost – now is the time to compare plans and get enrolled.

The Biden-Harris Administration has extended the open enrollment deadline until Jan. 15, to ensure everyone has enough time to get covered. For coverage to start Jan. 1, 2022, you must enroll by Dec. 15.

Visit healthcare.gov to enroll online 24-hours a day, seven days a week. If you need help filling out the application, you can call the Marketplace call center at 1-800- 318-2596 (TTY is 855-889-4325). Assistance is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in 230+ languages.

Help is also out there for those who want to meet with someone locally. For information about enrolling call us at the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment at 913-826-1200. For trained staff who can help you find coverage that meets your needs, fits your budget and will get you enrolled, contact United Way 211 or visit localhelp.healthcare.gov.

Our community is healthy when we are ALL healthy.

Sanmi Areola, Ph.D.
Director, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment