Evanston nonprofit hosts health care enrollment events


Jennifer Ball/The Daily Northwestern

Community health care advocate Kyle Schimmel examines HealthCare.gov, the website for enrollment under the Affordable Care Act. Schimmel gathered with other Chicago-area nonprofit representatives Saturday at Evanston’s Main Library to help residents troubleshoot the process of enrolling in coverage under the ACA.

Jennifer Ball, Reporter

Chicago-area health care advocates continue to help Evanston residents struggling with technical glitches as they enroll for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. 

Evanston’s Connections for the Homeless hosted a walk-in troubleshooting workshop Saturday in the seminar room of the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. About 10 people attended the session.

Connections is hosting nine ACA enrollment events through mid-March before open enrollment ends March 31. 

In addition to providing housing and job-search assistance in 31 northern Cook County communities, Connections works with other nonprofit organizations to help Evanston residents register for health care. 

The volunteers, called health care navigators, assisted people with technical difficulties or questions. The snowfall may have prevented some people from coming, said Rick Fecht, a volunteer and contractor for the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County.

Donning a bright orange “Get Covered” beanie cap, another navigator, Kyle Schimmel, attributed the organization’s effort to boost health care enrollment to teamwork among local nonprofits.

“We all have the same goal. We work with Connections a lot,” said Schimmel, who works at the Howard Area Community Center on the Chicago-Evanston border.

Fecht said people came to the session for two main reasons: they did not own or had a fear of computers.

“There are a lot of individual situations where it is not exactly clear how they should sign up,” Schimmel said. “It’s kind of frustrating for people because they kind of expected it to be ready to go.”

Schimmel said the best part of Connections’ enrollment program is the flexible hours. The organization is hosting additional events on Feb. 15 and March 15 at the Main Library, Feb. 10 and March 10 at the North Branch and Feb. 13 and March 13 at the Chicago Avenue/Main Street Branch. 

“You don’t need to go into an office. You can just go to a library,” Schimmel said. “It’s nice to have something on a weekend because this is often the only day they have free. It offers more flexibility than having them come into an office 9 to 5.”

Yet Schimmel empathized with the frustration her clients were experiencing while trying to sign up for insurance. Specifically, the complexity of the process requires help from many different people.

“If the website is down, there’s nothing I can really do about it,” Schimmel said.

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