May 3, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. found me driving through miles of pecan groves in the southern part of New Mexico. I was heading to our first event in a series we are hosting this summer through Health Action New Mexico (HANM) – cultural learning events aimed at educating communities about their new health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. I wasn’t sure what to expect; believe it or not, it can be difficult to get people really excited about attending an event where the main topic is health insurance.
Our first of these events was scheduled to be held in San Miguel, a small village in Doña Ana county. I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by over a hundred happy, welcoming faces ready to celebrate the Cinco de Mayo and to hear about the new day for health care in New Mexico! This wonderful turnout was an accomplishment by our co-host for the event, Concilio Campesino, a non-profit organization that offers community services to residents in southern New Mexico.
The program first included upbeat, celebratory music to commemorate el Cinco de Mayo, with snacks of fresh fruit, baked breads, coffee, and bottled water. Then, after welcoming of all present by the Concilio Campesino team, we did a brief power point presentation narrated in Spanish of what is going to be offered under the Medicaid Expansion and the Health Insurance Marketplace. This presentation was done as an introduction, providing the basics of who is eligible, how to apply, and how to get help if a challenge occurs during enrollment. We also introduced a plan where there will be a "You Are Not Alone" committee of local community leaders to help those applying for enrollment in either of these programs to overcome any obstacle that they may encounter during enrollment periods. There was a question and answer period as a part of the presentation, where many participants got to ask their questions. We closed the event with a return to the celebratory activities of music and interchange among friends.
The event was fantastic. In addition to the great turnout, I appreciated the welcoming attitude that was displayed by the participants, the enthusiasm to learn about the health options being described, the interest to ask questions, and the commitment expressed by many to share information with others.
Our key strategy in these community events is to share factual information presented in the simplest, most actionable terms possible. We want to empower residents to determine for themselves who may be eligible, how to apply, and how to get help if necessary. Everyone took home checklists that walk through seeing if you are eligible for these new health insurance options, so they can take their health care into their own hands.
25% of New Mexicans are uninsured or underinsured. 170,000 people will be eligible for Medicaid Expansion in New Mexico, and another 200,000 for the Health Insurance Marketplace (aka “Exchange”). At HANM we are hosting these cultural learning events throughout the state to bring greater awareness of these health insurance options to communities around the state. If our first event is any indication, people are excited to find out about the changes that are occurring, and empowered to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families.
Our next event is Saturday, May 18th, 3:00 – 5:00pm, at the Beatrice Martinez Senior Center: 730 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park Road, Española NM. Featuring live musical guest Miguel Timoteo. Come celebrate a new day in health care with us!