By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
When it comes to finding out about your options to get affordable healthcare, a poetry reading is just what the doctor ordered.
On Sunday, Sept. 22, the “Good Medicine Poetry” event will feature Oklahoma’s own renowned performance poet Lauren Zuniga as part of the Doctors for America Coverage is Good Medicine Campaign.
The event will be held at the Paramount OKC Theater, 701 W. Sheridan, in Oklahoma City, from 3:30 – 5 p.m.
Katherine Scheirman, M.D., Doctors for America Oklahoma State Director and event co-sponsor said, “I am holding a poetry reading at the Paramount, featuring Lauren Zuniga, to raise awareness of the historic opportunity the people of Oklahoma will have to get affordable, high quality health insurance starting Oct. 1.
“However, nearly 78 percent of people who will be eligible for this benefit do not know it. That is why it is so important to me, as a doctor, to spread the word about the new marketplace, where buying health insurance will be a more pleasant experience than it is currently.”
Scheirman says Oklahomans will be able to compare and select from private health insurance plans online by visiting www.healthcare.gov or by calling 1-800-318-2596.
Zuniga, a three-time national poetry slam finalist, was a featured TEDx speaker in 2011 and is author of The Smell of Good Mud (Write Bloody Publishing, 2012). She served as Activist-in-Residence for the University of Oklahoma and is the voice of Oklahoma City Community College’s ‘Now is Power’ campaign, on radio and television.
“As an uninsured single mother and working artist, finally having access to healthcare will change my life and allow me to continue doing the work of a poet/activist,” said Zuniga. “Relieving the constant fear of getting sick will change the lives of so many working Oklahoma families.”
Along with Dr. Scheirman, event co-sponsors include Bob Lemon and Oklahoma poet Dorothy Alexander, Village Books Press co-owner with Devey Napier, of Cheyenne, Oklahoma.
Lemon, Oklahoma City activist and philanthropist said, “The Affordable Care Act is the most important piece of legislation ever passed by the United States government. It makes healthcare available to millions of people who would not otherwise have access to decent health care. We are a great nation, but we are a greater nation with this law on the books.”
Lawyer turned poet, Alexander is the author of four poetry collections and a number of non-fiction short works. She received the 2013 Carlile Award for Distinguished Service to the Oklahoma Literary Community, awarded by the Oklahoma Center for the Book and Friends of the Libraries in Oklahoma.
Alexander said, “Poetry embodies the urge for connection that all human beings have. It is the language of the human spirit; it says ‘we care for one another.’ I think it is appropriate to bring the good news of the Affordable Care Act, or what is known as ‘Obamacare,’ through poetry.
“Showing people a way to keep themselves healthy is the most significant way of showing that fellow human beings care for one another.”
Dr. Scheirman spent more than 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, attaining the rank of Colonel. She served as Chief of Medical Operations for U.S. Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein Air Base, Germany from 2004-2006.
Scheirman said, “We’re going into our communities to race for coverage and raise the resources we need to reach the uninsured. Every $100 donated will help 20 individuals or families get covered.”
Since retiring, Scheirman has been a tireless advocate of healthcare reform speaking across the state to educate Oklahomans about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. She currently serves on the Council of Fellows of the American College of Physician Executives, and is a senior advisor to VoteVets.org.
“For most Americans, one serious illness can mean bankruptcy, often even if they have insurance,” Scheirman added. “That all changes January 1, 2014, when coverage will start for people who sign up this year by Dec. 15.”
During the enrollment period, from October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014, middle-income people under age 65, who are not eligible for coverage through their employer, Medicaid, or Medicare, can apply for tax credit subsidies available through what is known as the Marketplace.
“This is a great opportunity that can transform the lives of so many, when 30,000,000 uninsured Americans will be able to sign up for private health insurance just by visiting the insurance Marketplace at www.HealthCare.gov,” said Scheirman.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 700,000 Oklahomans, or 19 percent of the state’s total population, were uninsured in 2011.
Because Gov. Mary Fallin has rejected the option of setting up a state-run marketplace, the federal government is operating the Oklahoma marketplace.
A variety of plans will be offered through the insurance marketplace allowing users to compare prices and apply for coverage. The policies will be provided by private insurance companies and will take effect beginning Jan. 1.
Participants will be eligible for tax credits or refunds, depending on their income level, to help offset the cost of the premiums. Some will also qualify for health care cost-sharing payments.
Those who make too much money to qualify for tax credits, but have been turned down for private insurance because of pre-existing conditions, can also take advantage of the marketplace.
Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act is called, is also available to people who currently have private market insurance, but are underinsured due to high deductibles or coverage limitations.
In July, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services handed out $1.7 million in grants to 73 Oklahoma health clinics to hire people to counsel applicants.
A second round of federal grants came in August totaling $1.6 million. The three Oklahoma network recipients were: Cardon Healthcare Network, $178,500; Oklahoma Community Health Centers Inc., $860,866; and Little Dixie Community Action Agency Inc., $580,733.
These three organizations will use the funds to hire “navigators” who will serve as an in-person resource to help Americans who want additional assistance while shopping for and enrolling in plans in the health insurance marketplace.
Scheirman said, “I hope you will support me in making a difference in the lives of working American families – their health, their financial security, and their peace of mind – knowing that they have good insurance. Even $10 will help – but the more you contribute, the more people we will be able to reach.”
Doctors for America is a national movement of 16,000 physicians and medical students working to improve the health of the nation and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high quality health care.
Paramount OKC refreshments and beverages, including wine, will be available for purchase. This event is open to the public.
Donations for Doctors for America will be accepted at the door, or you can give online at www.races.drsforamerica.org/KatherineS. For more information visit www.drsforamerica.org or www.facebook.com/DrsForAmericaOK.