As part of its mission Refuah Health Center in Rockland County, NY, responds to those in need of health care when and where they need it. This time, however, those in need were in fact first responders who needed insurance coverage for themselves and their families. The health center recently hosted an event not only to celebrate the tremendous contributions of the county’s fire and EMS volunteers, but to also help enroll the volunteers and their families in affordable health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
There are 26 volunteer fire departments and 15 volunteer EMS agencies in Rockland County serving 300,000 County residents. Yet, many first responders and their families are uninsured or underinsured and struggling to pay for high-cost health plans. Refuah’s counselors helped the volunteers and their families understand their insurance options under the ACA and assisted them with filling out applications.
One uninsured volunteer firefighter and EMT who was among the scores of volunteers who saved lives during Hurricane Sandy, talked about how her family struggled with out of pocket expenses for coverage. “At one point we all had health insurance as my mom was working full time, but then her hours were reduced to part time, which made us ineligible for health insurance,” she said. “When we got sick and needed to be seen, we paid out of pocket, which is very expensive.”
“As we see every day and as we saw with Hurricane Sandy, first responders are there for us when we need them,” said Chanie Sternberg, President and Chief Executive Officer at Refuah Health Center. “Now it is our turn to make sure that they have health insurance and health care when they need it. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we can now do just that.”