PEORIA — For Sue Young, having health insurance — and access to affordable prescription drugs — could be a matter of life or death.
The out-of-work attorney is one of many people who have turned to Heartland Health Services for assistance in navigating the sign-up process to get covered before the Affordable Care Act enrollment deadline on Dec. 15.
In Young's case, it means she's able to afford her prescriptions for hypertension medicine, reducing the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke.
She spoke about her experiences there alongside U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who visited the facility Friday to bolster awareness of the pending registration deadline.
"We want to make sure people realize going without health insurance is a big risk," said Durbin, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.
He criticized the Trump administration for cutting the open enrollment period and reducing assistance for people trying to understand their options.
Through that coverage under the ACA, people also have access to preventative care, which can be key, said Gregg Stoner, Heartland Health's chief medical officer, both for a patient's long-term health and for saving money.
"When you prevent somebody from having a heart attack or from having a stroke ... you've saved the system a tremendous amount of money," he said.
Heartland maintains a hotline at (309) 680-7632 for people to call to work with personnel there at no cost to navigate the sign-up process.
Some 350,000 Illinoisans get their health coverage on the individual market, Durbin's office said, and 80 percent are eligible for tax credits to keep their premiums below $100 monthly.
People can also go to getcovered.illinois.gov or call (866) 311-1119 for more information across the state, or go through the federal website at www.healthcare.gov.