MIAMI, Fla. (March 2, 2014)–As the March 31 extended deadline for purchasing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act approaches, a dedicated group of Miller School students is hard at work leading uninsured or underinsured patients and their families through the enrollment process.
The students, who have earned the Certified Application Counselor (CAC) designation, were trained through the University of Miami Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Department of Community Service (DOCS) Program, under the aegis of the Health Council of South Florida. This past Saturday, 17 of them helped guide consumers through the enrollment process at the UM Life Science & Technology Park, where they held the first of two “March Madness” community sign-up events with the health council and Enroll America, a non-profit organization devoted to maximizing the number of Americans with health coverage.
“We are proud of the commitment our DOCS students have made to helping uninsured and underinsured residents of Miami-Dade County obtain health coverage for themselves and their families,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the Miller School, and CEO of UHealth. “Having health insurance, with access to proper medical care, is the first step toward having good health.”
To date, more than 60 students have completed the training, assisting more than 300 individuals, more than 90 of whom have completed their online applications with the medical students. The DOCS-trained student counselors will participate in a second “March Madness” community enrollment on March 15, which will coincide with the DOCS annual health fair at the Belafonte TACOLCY Center in Liberty City.
“We are so fortunate to have medical students who are so dedicated to community service,” UM Pesident Donna E. Shalala said at a February 19 news conference at the Life Science & Technology Park. “They are the future of health care, and in this case, they are taking the future into their own hands. They are stepping up and encouraging people, coaching them, to come into the health care system.”
Rimsky Denis, M.P.H., M.B.A., a fourth-year medical student who serves as executive director of the DOCS Program, described the thrill he and his fellow students feel when they help patients and their families, some of whom have serious medical conditions, finally get health insurance and access to treatment. “Helping the community is ingrained in the culture of our students,” he said. “These experiences are truly eye-opening, and our students are changed forever.”
Marisel Losa, president and CEO of the Health Council of South Florida, outlined some of the logistical challenges in trying to cover a large, heavily populated area, and she called the support provided by the DOCS students “absolutely amazing. There is a lot still left to be done,” she said, “and I look forward to continuing to work with UM.”
Nicholas X. Duran, state director for Florida at Enroll America, praised the commitment by the Miller students, whose time is already filled with their academic pursuits. “They are sacrificing their nights and weekends to help make our community a better place,” he said. Noting that 88 percent of new enrollees have qualified for financial assistance, he added, “The students are giving south Floridians peace of mind and helping them become more financially secure.”