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Meet the 2016 Public Policy Challenge Finalists: PHILC

February 13, 2016

PHILC: Who We Are

Siya Bhatt: Originally from Princeton, New Jersey, Siya is currently pursuing a Masters degree in the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the Perelman School of Medicine and is concurrently a Fellow at Healthcare: The Journal of Delivery Science and Innovation. Her interests center around improvements to quality and delivery of care, particularly through payment reform. Previously, Siya has worked with UNESCO in the Sector of Social and Human Sciences on multi stakeholder clinical ethics projects, as well as in clinical research for pain management and post-surgical quality of recovery at the Hospital of University of Pennsylvania.

Ashwin Iyengar: Originally from Livingston, New Jersey, Ashwin is pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree at Fels Institute of Government as well as a clinical Master of Social Work degree at the School of Social Policy and Practice. Ashwin is concurrently pursuing a law degree with a focus on healthcare law and policy at Fordham Law School in New York City. Ashwin most recently interned at the Pennsylvania Health Law Project in Philadelphia, where he represented lower-income, elderly, and disabled clients in insurance denial and Medicaid eligibility claims. Prior to coming to Penn, Ashwin was a Teach for America Corps Member in Los Angeles, where he taught high school students with special needs. Ashwin eventually hopes to become a lawyer and an advocate for clients who have physical and mental disabilities.

Seleeke Flingai, from Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a PhD candidate in Cellular and Molecular Biology at the Perelman School of Medicine. His research primarily focuses on vaccine development against infectious diseases, particularly Dengue and Lyme disease. Concurrent to his doctoral research, he has obtained a Certificate in Public Health from the Perelman School of Medicine. In addition, he has made a number of media appearances in the Philadelphia area addressing vaccine safety and the dangers of vaccine skepticism in the United States. After obtaining his PhD, he plans to obtain a Master's degree in health policy and pursue a career focused on health care reform and health equity in America. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science degree in Brain and Cognitive Sciences.

Renee Lu: Renee was born and grew up in Shanghai, China. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree at Fels Institute of Government, University of Pennsylvania. She has a burgeoning interest in public health and has once worked as a community volunteer to help the diabetic patients. She is currently an intern at Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center. Prior to pursuing her degree at Fels, she worked as a research assistant for United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation, promoting economic cooperation between developing countries. As for her career goal, she wants to devote herself to helping low-income groups and enhancing their living standard.

Amanda Solch, who is originally from Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, is a Master of Social Work candidate at the School of Social Policy and Practice. She is part of the PAC, the Penn Aging Certificate, who is committed to working in Geriatric Social Work. She graduated from Bates College in Maine with a degree in Sociology. Prior to pursuing her Masters degree at Penn, she worked for Maine Volunteer Lawyers Project and was an AmeriCorps member at Great Oaks Charter School in Newark, NJ. As part of her Masters degree, she is currently a student intern at The Legal Clinic for the Disabled. She is involved with assisting lawyers with cases, helping clients apply for public benefits and providing resources. When thinking about her career, she is considering pursuing advocacy work for individuals with disabilities.

PHILC: The Idea

Since the passage of the Patient Care and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) in 2010, the number of Philadelphians without health insurance has declined from 10.0 percent in 2013 to 8.5 percent as of September 2015. 130,000 Philadelphians between the ages of 18 and 64 are still without any form of health coverage whatsoever. 20 to 24 percent of Philadelphians ages 18-29 (often referred to as the “Young Invincibles,”) are also without insurance – in part, due to a mistaken belief that they do not need or cannot afford insurance.

Accessing care also remains a problem for “Young Invincibles” in the Philadelphia area, even among those who now have health insurance. Federal Marketplace Assistance Programs have reported that newly-insured young adult consumers struggle with insurance terminology, such as “premium,” “deductible,” or “copay,” and do not know how to calculate out-of-pocket costs or how to find a doctor who is in-network. A recent University of Pennsylvania study further demonstrated that Philadelphians ages 18-29 (who generally have little experience managing their own health care expenses,) find it especially challenging to access and utilize their new insurance plans.

PHILC (Philadelphia Health Literacy Insurance Coalition) is modeled after a program that the federally-funded local nonprofit, The Health Federation of Philadelphia, currently offers at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP.) At in-person workshops, students learn insurance terminology and how to compare and select plans. Prior to Healthcare.gov Open Enrollment, the organization provides daily in-person support to help students and families fill out healthcare applications.

We recommend that a pilot program be implemented at high schools in neighborhoods that the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health has determined to have high uninsured populations, such as North Philadelphia and River Wards district. PHILC and the Health Federation will conduct in-person workshops in 11th and 12th grade Health and Science classrooms. A PHILC Consultant and Health Federation staff will be at the school in the weeks leading up to Open Enrollment to help students and parents complete Medicaid and Healthcare.gov applications in person.

In 2016, each uninsured household in Philadelphia will be assessed a federal tax penalty of $695, or 2.5 percent of its household income. By helping students select and enroll in cost-effective plans, PHILC can help generate collective household savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars for lower-income Philadelphians.

PHILC’s Goals Include:

  1. Teaching students how to pick a health plan that best meets their family’s needs.
  2. Minimizing students’ and their parents’ out-of-pocket health costs.
  3. Increasing the number of Philadelphians ages 18-29 who have access to healthcare.
  4. Bolstering Philadelphians’ overall health insurance literacy, which the American Medical Librarian Association has defined as the ability to make informed purchases and usage decisions.

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Contact Information

Fels Institute of Government
University of Pennsylvania
3814 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Phone: (215) 898-2600
Fax: (215) 746-2829

felsinstitute@sas.upenn.edu