On Tuesday morning, after the speeches, including thanks to the late U.S. Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy, and the ribbon-cutting, a trio of "certified application specialists" set to work at the Boo Williams Sports Complex in Hampton to enroll some of the region's uninsured in the newly opened state health insurance marketplace.
Though Virginia ceded control of the exchange or marketplace to the federal government, enrollment in the private insurance plans, at the core of "Obamacare," is unaffected by the government's shutdown.
"People have been fighting for it for 50 years," said Gaylene Kanoyton, president of Celebrate HEALTHCARE, the event's organizer.
Within an hour, the first couple of enrollees were sporting "I'm Covered" T-shirts. Hampton resident Harlon Stewart, 59, had been without insurance "forever," he said, beaming at his newfound status.
Likewise, Ellen Pridgen, 52, from Newport News, said, "It's a big deal." She has been without health insurance for two years after she got hurt on the job. "This way, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you can have it controlled. You can get help with prescriptions. It's a big deal," she said.
The event, which is also offering free health screenings, employment opportunities and seminars on Medicaid and Medicare, continues until 2 p.m. today at Boo Williams Sportsplex, 5 Armistead Pointe Parkway, Hampton. It is free and open to the public.
Gayle Canoyton, president of Celebrate HEALTHCARE, has organized a second event to help enroll people in insurance through the Virginia exchange on Saturday, Oct. 5, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., also at the Boo Williams Sportsplex. Call 757-287-0277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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