BLOOMINGTON — For 21 years as she worked as an administrative assistant in the production engineering department of Mitsubishi Motors North America plant, Kimberly Wolf had Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance through her employer.
"We had the best insurance," said Wolf, 58, of Bloomington. "Everything was covered."
In November 2015, Wolf was among 913 employees let go when the auto plant closed. "We got to keep our insurance for a year and a half, which ended in April 2017. I needed to find other insurance so I went shopping."
Wolf, who is single with two adult children, works as a receptionist at Lincoln College in Normal but that part-time job doesn't include health insurance.
She needed insurance because she inherited chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, diabetes and asthma from her father and is on medication for all those diseases. She limits her sugar intake, eats in moderation and goes swimming and walking.
"And I needed something so the IRS wouldn't ding me with a $647 penalty," she said.
She chose a plan with another insurance company with a low premium ($319 a month) and a high deductible ($6,000) because she could afford the premiums. "If I had kept my Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance after April, it would have cost me $1,900 a month."
"But the (new) insurance sucks," she said. "It covers only two doctor visits a year and hospitalization."
Wolf is a patient of Immanuel Health Center in Bloomington, where office manager Taylor Potts worked to get Wolf a Good Rx Prescription Drug Savings Card that saves up to 80 percent on the cost of prescription drugs.
Then Potts helped Wolf go on getcoveredillinois.gov to find health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. They found that Wolf qualified for expanded Medicaid coverage; she applied and was approved effective Sept. 1.
"My co-pays are $3.90 for office visits here and $2 for medicines," she said.
"Going on Public Aid — I struggled with that. I'm not used to it," Wolf said. But she needs her medication and doctor visits to manage her chronic conditions.
"Thank God that Taylor was there," Wolf said. "She helped me through it."
Wolf is studying medical billing and coding at DeVry University and hopes to return to full-time employment.
Regarding the Affordable Care Act, Wolf said "I'm very happy that this option is out there, especially for people like me without the money and resources but we still need insurance."
"It's not a perfect system," Potts said. "There is no such thing."
Potts hopes the ACA continues to result in more preventive health care for low-income individuals with chronic medical conditions. Reducing frequency of ER visits for people with chronic conditions not only allows ERs to focus on people with emergencies but eventually will reduce health care costs, she said.