Obamacare is coming to a county near you.
The health departments in Whiteside and Lee counties are getting federal money to help uninsured people enroll for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, as is the case with counties around the state.
With the money, the Lee County Health Department plans to enter a contract for someone to provide the service, while the Whiteside County Health Department, which has a federally funded community health center, will hire three people.
About a third of the people who visit Whiteside County's clinic are uninsured, said Beth Fiorini, the county's public health administrator.
"We need to get every one of those people on Medicaid or on insurance," she said.
The House of Representatives has voted 40 times to repeal or partially dismantle the Affordable Care Act, with the majority arguing that it will hurt the economy.
"I don't know if the Affordable Care Act is perfect," Fiorini said. "It's a great asset so that people don't go to the emergency room, which costs a lot more. It'll be a great thing for our clinic. We get very little money. We see people no matter their ability to pay."
At Tuesday's County Board meeting, Fiorini distributed a brochure about the Affordable Care Act, which included contact information for the Whiteside County Health Department. She got the templates from the federal government.
According to the brochure, the enrollment for the program, called the "Health Insurance Marketplace," starts Oct. 1 and ends in March 2014.
Coverage can begin as early as Jan. 1, the brochure says.
"The Marketplace is a new way to find health insurance to fit your budget and meet your needs. [It] gives you one place to search for health coverage with a single application," the brochure says.
Cathy Ferguson, the Lee County Health Department's administrator, said she has three "really good" finalists for the contract position. The money will last through June, but she doesn't believe that all the people will be enrolled before that time, saying she hoped the county would get money for next year.
County Board Vice Chairman John Nicholson, R-Franklin Grove, opposes Obamacare.
"When the government takes over one-sixth of the economy and tacks on one, two or three levels of bureaucracy, who is going to pay for that?" Nicholson said.
"We'll have more bureaucracy than when [the health care system] was capitalistic. What you don't have to pay in premiums, you'll have to pay in taxes."
For more info
800-318-2596 (available 24/7, 150 languages)
Whiteside County Health Department: 815-626-2230
Lee County Health Department: 815-284-3371