Open Enrollment Spotlight: Reaching the Young Invincibles

By Chrystel Murrieta and Joanna Garcia,  Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps members, AltaMed Health Services

As mentioned in our previous blog post, Community HealthCorps® is celebrating this year’s Open Enrollment season by sharing stories of how our AmeriCorps members are able to create healthier futures by connecting individuals to health care coverage. Our third and final spotlight comes from Chrystel Murrieta and Joanna Garcia, both serving their second year with our AltaMed Health Services team in Los Angeles, CA. 



Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members on AltaMed’s “ACA Team”

With the third Open Enrollment period in full swing, memories of last year’s enrollment season immediately come to mind. During our first year of service as Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps members with AltaMed Health Services we partnered with the California State University Health Insurance Education Project (HIEP) to take on the challenge of enrolling “young invicibles” throughout Los Angeles and Orange County. Targeting a population defined by their young age–typically 18 to 25–and a lack of interest in gaining insurance coverage, our main strategy was to go directly to them. As Certified Enrollment Counselors, our “ACA Team” went out to various local college campuses several days a week, offering enrollment and referral services to students and their friends and families.

Oftentimes, because we served so many individuals during these office hours, the days blurred together. But every once in a while, we had moments that connected our service beyond the daily rush of enrollment to a deeper understanding of the individuals we serve and how getting covered can definitively impact their lives.

One of those moments happened early on a Tuesday morning. Our team was having a busy day at Cal State’s LA campus when two young sisters walked in seeking more information on what documents they needed to enroll. After handing them an enrollment checklist, they quickly looked up and said, almost in unison:

“Well we have a Social Security under the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) and an Employment Authorization Card, but in the past, all we have ever qualified for has been Emergency Medi-Cal.”

Although we weren’t too familiar with DACA, we were certain that if the sisters met the income requirements they would most likely qualify for full-scope Medi-Cal. Upon hearing this explanation, the sisters just looked at each other in awe.

“So, we could go get a physical and visit the eye doctor?!”


Community HealthCorps AmeriCorps members on AltaMed’s “ACA Team” in action on Cal State’s campus

When we responded yes, an ecstatic look beamed across their faces. Their voices echoed a mix of disbelief and new hope for having regular access to health care. This was a vast improvement over their current “emergency insurance,” which only covered them if they were in an accident and/or the hospital. Now they could get the health care they needed at any time, not just in dire straits.


This encounter made us realize that there are people–even young invincibles–that want health coverage and are willing to purchase it but have other barriers, like misinformation about eligibility, preventing them from attempting to enroll. Luckily, word-of-mouth spread across the Cal State campuses, inspiring individuals like these sisters to visit our team and find out more about their options and benefits for obtaining health insurance. We’re proud to say that from November 2014 to February 2015, our team provided over 400 individuals with insurance enrollment assistance, resources, or referrals. With our help, the percentage of uninsured Cal State students has decreased to the single digits!

Posted in AltaMed Health Services, AmeriCorps, California State University Insurance Education Project, community healthcorps, Open Enrollment, Young Invincibles | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Open Enrollment Spotlight: The Emotions of Enrollment

By Anna Zeira, 2014-2015 Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps Alum, Chase Brexton Health Care

As mentioned in our previous blog post, Community HealthCorps® is celebrating this year’s Open Enrollment season by sharing stories of how our AmeriCorps members are able to create healthier futures by connecting individuals to health care coverage. Our second spotlight comes from Anna Zeira, who served last year with our Chase Brexton Health Care team in Baltimore, MD. 


Anna-blogWhen I first started my service year, I couldn’t have imagined just how much emotion would be tied to helping enroll patients into health insurance. Seeing a person smile ear-to-ear when finding out that their increasing medical debt can be covered at no cost is something I wouldn’t trade in for the world. Hearing the deep sigh of relief when I’m able to help someone reinstate their dropped insurance or find a way to afford that expensive medication they need makes my service worth every minute. Although I don’t always have the luxury of delivering good news—and sometimes it’s accompanied with other barriers the patient may have to overcome—when I do, those moments stick with me.

Recently, a patient came to my office with her 87-year-old mother in hopes of reducing the cost of her healthcare. She wasn’t sure what to do, as her mother was getting older and continuously being prescribed medications she can’t afford. Her mother had also not yet reached the five-year permanent residency status in the United States and was therefore ineligible for any medical assistance programs.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to deliver good news right away. Because of her mother’s residency, she would have to pay the full premium for all of the qualified health plans on the Affordable Care Act website. After learning this news, the patient quickly became distraught. She shared that she supports her mother by working at a restaurant and was having trouble making ends meet. In hopes of a silver lining, she asked me about an insurance plan for herself.

As we prepared to go through the application process, I could feel my anxiety radiating through the room. I had no way of being sure if she would qualify for medical assistance or a health plan she could afford and was grappling with the idea of having to deliver even more bad news. After what felt like the longest twenty minutes of my life, we found out that she was eligible for medical assistance, meaning she would have health insurance at no cost to her. An instant wave of happiness rushed over me. I was so happy to help relieve the stress in this woman’s life and to give her the chance to save some money. Even though, I knew she would still have hardships to conquer, I could see that at that moment, this small victory helped move her forward. I’m forever grateful that, through my service, I could help make that happen.

Posted in Affordable Care Act, AmeriCorps, Chase Brexton Health Care, community healthcorps, Open Enrollment | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On This Veteran’s Day, Don’t Just Say Thank You

By Lisa Middleton, Program Associate, NACHC-Community HealthCorps®


Lisa’s father and Korean War Veteran, Walter Brockway

Until recently, I lost my connection to what it means to be a Veteran. Today, I reflect back on the military history of my family, gratitude, and caring for another. My dad, Wally, was a Tin Can Sailor (USS Chauncey DD-667) in the Korean Conflict. He didn’t talk much about his service during the Conflict. My mom thinks it’s due to his humble position on the ship – not a fighter on the front lines, so to speak.  It wasn’t until his involvement in his ship association reunions that I started to learn more and connect a sense of pride to his service.

My mom’s brother, my Uncle Louie, was career Air Force and retired as a Colonel. He served in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Only a couple of stories I grew up listening to were of his return home after WWII. As a young girl, my mom wouldn’t dare touch him while he napped unless she wanted to find her wrist in a death grip. A simple call of his name standing a short distance back for dinner would be enough. Tales of nightmares and loud noises haunted him. Today, we’d call that combat stress.

Uncle Bob, my mom’s other brother, was deployed to Vietnam. My cousin Barbara would often repeat the stories that she had heard growing up – he was different when he came home; he just wasn’t the same; he couldn’t stay in one place. My Aunt and Uncle divorced, and I don’t remember seeing my Uncle Bob much after; it was always a treat to see him. My memory of him was of this strong, burly type; little did I know what he might be dealing with on the inside. My Uncle Bob died of a heart attack – alone in his apartment in Florida. He was found 3 days later. My cousin blamed his lonely death on the War. Taps played at Arlington. Tears fell each time I heard it again.

Perhaps the most formative memory I have of Veterans happened at a church retreat when I was sixteen. Two of the adult leaders were Vietnam Vets. They each shared battlefield stories that changed their lives. One story in particular has long been embedded in the layers of my own family folklore. He told us about watching his best friend being blown up right in front of him. As he recalled a memory from twenty years ago, he actively tried to hold back tears but ended up sobbing. In that moment, I was struck by a simple truth – regardless of how you felt about the Vietnam War, these Veterans, these heroes, deserve respect, honor, and thanks.


Lisa Middleton, Program Associate, Community HealthCorps® national team at NACHC

Fast forward to today. Many (many) years have passed, and I’ll admit I’ve lost my connection to the military history of my family that I once held so close. The Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq seem far removed from my life here. How convenient that is – out of sight, out of mind? What happened to that impassioned 16 year old that knew deep in her heart that veterans shouldn’t suffer the effects of war alone? As my dear friends sent their son off to Marine Corps boot camp this past summer, I found myself thinking about my father, my uncles, my youth group leader, their service to our Country, and what happened when they returned from service. I couldn’t help but wonder about the 2.6 million1 Post-9/11 Veterans, up to 20%2 of whom are likely to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. How will we help them, honor them? Will they tell their stories to youth groups like mine 20 years from now?

In my search for answers, I came across Jim Hutchins. As a Community HealthCorps®
national staff member, Jim’s story is particularly poignant for me because he is both a Veteran and a Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps alum. A strong interest in healthcare and a desire to earn a nursing degree led Jim to join the U.S. Army Reserve as a way to pay for college. Yet, his college plans were deferred when he was deployed across the world as a Cargo Specialist and Motor Transport Operator. He eventually returned to Boston and found himself adrift. With help from his Commander, Jim met Janice Braithwaite, Program Coordinator for Community HealthCorps® at the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers. Right off the bat, Janice knew Jim would be a good fit for the program, while Jim quickly found Community HealthCorps® as an opportunity to reach his original goal of a career in health. He could obtain on-the-job training in health care, work with the underserved population he felt passionate about, earn a living stipend, and ultimately an education award, all leading to that long sought after nursing degree.

James Pic 1

Jim Hutchins, Veteran and 2014-15 Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps Alum

As a Community HealthCorps® AmeriCorps member at Whittier Street Health Center, Jim conducted HIV outreach in the Jamaica Plains and Dorcester communities, taught patients how their health decisions impact their personal financial resources, closed the loop with patients on referrals for appointments, and helped them better understand their health insurance options. After completing his service last year, Jim was hired at the Whittier Street Health Center as the Managed Care Referrals Coordinator. He’s not yet enrolled in school but hopes to be very soon.

As I reflect on Jim’s journey, I’m so glad that he met Janice and was able to get back on track through Community HealthCorps®. I hope that he’s able to find peace with his experience in the Army and his deployment. Most of all, I want to thank him for continuing to serve and making a difference in the lives of others. On this year’s Veteran’s Day, all I can say now is what I discovered at 16 through the eyes of an adult – whatever we believe, we should honor, respect, and care for one another. Reach out to a Veteran today, but don’t just say thank you; ask them how they’re doing and take a moment to listen to their story. Knowing that someone cares about their well-being can make all the difference.

For more on how you can support our Veterans, check out the following projects and initiatives: the Veteran Vision Project, Unstoppable Heroes and the Boot Campaign.


This blog entry was written in honor of:
Father, Walter Brockway, Uncle, William Brockway United States Navy, Korean Conflict;
Uncle, Gene Brockway, United States Navy WWII;
Great Grandfather John Scherer, United States Army, Spanish American War;
Grandfather, Louis Eichinger, Sr., United States Army, WW I;
Louis Eichinger, Jr., Air Force WWII, Korea, Vietnam;
Robert Eichinger, United States Army, Vietnam;
The many cousins of the Brockway-Eichinger clan that have followed in these men’s footsteps.
James McIlvaine, United States Marine Corps, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, OIF, KIA, 30.04.2009
To the Gold Star Families that have made the ultimate sacrifice.

Posted in AmeriCorps, community healthcorps, Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, Veterans Day, Whittier Street Health Center | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment