An article in the Mena Star explains that — despite the efforts of state Rep. Nate Bell, the Mena Republican who has made it his mission to stop outreach informing people of their options for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act — citizens in Mena are getting covered under Obamacare.
Announcing that 9th Street Ministries, sponsored by the First Baptist Church in Mena, will offer its last clinic later this month, Nurse Stacey Bowser, the clinical director at 9th Street Ministries, said, “We’ve done our mission.” The clinic has offered free medical services once a month to the uninsured in Mena since 1998. For years, they were seeing hundreds of people a month desperate for care (the clinic only served people with no insurance of their own). But now folks in Mena are signing up with the private option and other coverage options via the ACA. “This complete dropoff of numbers of people coming to the clinic is a result of all those who have successfully enrolled in an insurance policy now,” Bowser said.
“Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore,” Stacey Bowser RN, 9th Street Ministries Clinic Director, stated. “We’ve gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won’t be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission. …
“There was such a need for many years that we would have people coming through the medical clinic from the time the doors opened early in the morning all the way until 4:00 in the afternoon.”
The caveat here is that the ACA (mostly via the private option) has reduced the uninsured rate in the state, but it hasn’t eliminated it altogether. If places like 9th Street Ministries close shop, it will put more pressure on community health centers to take up the slack for anyone who might fall through the cracks, and both Republicans in the legislature and Beebe administration officials have been looking to squeeze their funding. Still, what we’re hearing in Mena is evidence of a major success story in the state: 150,000 low-income people, and counting, have gained comprehensive health coverage under the private option. Tens of thousands more have signed up on the Health Insurance Marketplace (91 percent have qualified for subsidies to help them cover the cost of their premiums). Folks in Arkansas, including Nate Bell’s hometown of Mena, are getting covered. The number of people without insurance is declining.
Bell, of course, was vocal in advocating for blocking federal outreach funds to inform folks about their new options under the law, and got an amendment attached to the private option that banned all state spending in outreach in the new fiscal year (both for the private option and for others signing up on the Marketplace — see here for the difference between the two).
Said Bell, “We’re trying to create a barrier to enrollment.” Perhaps Bell underestimated the determination of his neighbors in Mena to enroll in coverage they need.