5K walk/run event raises awareness for uninsured residents

The Champaign County Christian Health Center held a 5K walk/run fundraiser on Saturday at the University’s Arboretum to raise awareness for the 20,157 Champaign County residents who do not have health insurance. 

The race was a fall fundraiser to raise awareness among University students and faculty about health care, said Jinny Cho, Champaign County Christian Health Center administrative coordinator. Community members paid a $25 registration fee and students paid $15 that went toward funding for the clinic, which provides free health care to citizens without insurance or an Illinois state medical card. 

Charles Kim, junior in AHS, had never participated in a race before entering Saturday’s 5K.

“I know, especially in the Champaign-Urbana area, there’s a lot of people in need of health care. I know these are some of the people that can actually provide free health care, so that was a major motivation.” Kim said. “We’re all paying money into this, so hopefully it should benefit people and word will get out.”

In Champaign County alone, 16 percent of residents are uninsured, according to a 2010-11 report from Illinois Health Matters.

The numbers are even higher for the entire state of Illinois, where 1.5 million residents, or 20 percent, do not have health insurance.

With the opening of enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace on Oct. 1, Americans’ coverage through the marketplace will start Jan. 1, 2014. Following this date, many uninsured Americans will have access to guaranteed private health insurance or Medicaid. For those who enroll by Dec. 15, coverage, which can include lower costs and plans that cover essential benefits, pre-existing conditions and more, begins Jan. 1. 

Enrollment is open between now and March 31, according to the White House website.  

The insurance marketplace is a new way for Americans to find and compare different coverage plans, seeing if they qualify for lower monthly premiums for private insurance plans and enroll in a plan, all in one application. Users will also learn if they qualify for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program or lower out-of-pocket costs, according to the government’s health care website. 

“I know people personally who have been in need or are uninsured, and how challenging it is and how scary it is to be in a major health situation,” Cho said when asked for her reasons for attending the race. “But even more than that is really seeing how the body of Christ and the community come together.”

As far as Champaign goes, complying with the requirements of the Affordable Care Act and the new Marketplace have hardly left an impact, said Larry Krause, risk manager in the City of Champaign’s Human Resources department.

He said the only requirement so far was to notify all employees of the availability of the Marketplace by Oct. 1, which Champaign accomplished mid-September.

For the citizens of Champaign, Cho said the clinic continues to raise awareness for uninsured Champaign-Urbana community members. Reeba Jacob, a graduate student who helped coordinate the event, said the clinic does great work for the community’s uninsured and she wanted to help raise money.

“It’s the one thing you can do,” Jacob said. “There are a few (runners) I noticed … that actually come out to the clinic who are here, so that’s always encouraging — the ones that actually get the services to come back and support us.”

Brittney can be reached at [email protected]