Just in time for this open enrollment period, there’s a great new tool to help women get started using their health insurance. It’s called “My Health, My Voice: A Woman’s Step-by-Step Guide to Using Health Insurance,” and was produced by Raising Women’s Voices.

Available in both printed and on-line formats, the Guide is designed to teach newly-insured women the basics of health insurance, including the importance of choosing a primary care provider who is in their health plan network and the value of free preventive services. The Guide uses colorful graphics to explain confusing insurance terms, such as “deductible,” “co-pay” and “co-insurance.” It provides examples of women calling their health plans and doctors’ offices. The Feminist Women’s Health Center (FWHC) in Atlanta was excited to be part of the national launch of the “My Health, My Voice” campaign in November.

As the Raising Women’s Voices coordinator for Georgia, the FWHC helped test the guide earlier this year by conducting focus groups with black women, ages 20-60+. We partnered with the Center for Black Women’s Wellness to identify some of the participants and held the focus groups at their location in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta. Many identified as low-income, and most had children. The group identified various experiences with health care and insurance, from the newly insured just coming off their parents’ insurance plans, to those who had transitioned from employer insurance to ACA marketplace plans, to those with little to no experience at all with insurance. Regardless of their experience level walking in, all participants expressed interest in learning more about how to manage and take ownership of their health care.

We had an incredible response from the participants, who greatly appreciated the resources and materials. Women enjoyed the color and design of the booklets. Several expressed that they appreciated the “plain talk” language used to explain the content. Several also mentioned that the materials would be good to take with them to appointments. Some were a bit confused by terms like co-insurance, but the examples were helpful. We found that we learned from and with the participants. We enjoyed hearing concerns directly from the participants and being able to connect them with tools to address them. The stories were incredibly rich and touching. Women spoke candidly about their lives, their families, their fears and their hopes.

In recent follow up with the participants, we learned how they have continued using the guides and sharing the information with their communities. One participant stated, “I am able to talk about it with my family and my grandkids. During the event, I gained the skills that I needed to take more pride in my health and talk with my doctor.”

We were grateful to be a part of the process of contributing to and refining the guides. Our focus groups were among groups that reached 120 women in 14 states where there are Raising Women’s Voices coordinators. We are excited to continue this work with groups of black women, using printed copies of the guide that we are distributing through the clinic to our patients, through the partner organizations we work with, and through our own Certified Application Counselors as they complete enrollments of women. We hope to have more opportunities to walk people through the guide, lead conversations about their experiences, and connect them to additional resources to make the most out of their coverage. We encourage you to use and share it, too.

Kwajelyn Jackson, Community Education & Advocacy Manager
Feminist Women’s Health Center