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Iowa Views: A silver lining of this pandemic: Iowans are connecting with health care providers

Iowa Views: A silver lining of this pandemic: Iowans are connecting with health care providers

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The following editorial appeared in The Des Moines Register and appears here via the Associated Press:

Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines recently received an unexpected allocation of COVID-19 vaccines. It quickly organized a weekend “pop-up” clinic, made appointments over the telephone and got shots into the arms of more than 1,000 eligible Iowans, including seniors, child welfare workers and teachers.

“People were really happy to be here,” said hospital spokesperson Katie Wengert.

Iowans who may not have previously visited Broadlawns got a firsthand look at the dedicated staff and excellent care provided by Polk County’s hospital. They will return for a second dose of vaccine in a few weeks and may choose to return later for other health services provided there.

Therein lies a silver lining of this pandemic. Iowans are connecting to health care providers. If you didn’t have a physician or know your local pharmacist before, needing a vaccine may change that. We’re reconnecting with family doctors, talking on the phone to nurses and discovering the important work done by county health offices.

And the federal government is working to ensure more people have health insurance to pay for their care, instead of working to dismantle the law that makes health care more affordable for millions of Americans.

Ryan Frerichs, head pharmacist and owner of Meyer Pharmacy in Waverly, administered about 400 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccine by early February. He is giving shots to his own eligible customers as well as dentists, emergency responders and other health care providers in an effort organized by the county.

He said the additional work — which includes meetings, setting up online scheduling systems, numerous incoming phone calls and figuring out the logistics of providing first doses to some while simultaneously delivering second, booster doses to others — is worth the effort.

“It’s extremely rewarding as a health professional,” he said. “You can just feel the relief” people experience when they receive a shot.

They are grateful. They will always remember these vaccinations.

The pandemic is opening people’s eyes to the fact that pharmacists are highly trained practitioners. Some of us are relying on them for shots that may save our lives. We are realizing they are easily accessible, have vast knowledge and provide numerous other vaccinations. Many of us see our pharmacists more often than our family doctors.

COVID-19 vaccinations are helping to forge health care relationships that will extend beyond the current crisis.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is working to make sure health insurance is available to more people.

Shortly after taking office, he signed an executive order directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a special enrollment period for people to obtain coverage through exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act. The agency quickly announced a three-month period that begins Feb. 15.

Starting next week, Americans who need insurance, including those who have lost jobs, can visit healthcare.gov to find private coverage. Many will receive federal subsidies to help pay for it, and the lowest-income people will be connected to Medicaid.

After four long years, this country again has a president who understands the importance of health insurance to help cover the cost of hospitalizations, prescriptions and mental health care. He knows insurance pays the doctors, hospitals and pharmacists who have been there for us during this pandemic. We will need those providers going forward.

This is what working to make America great for average people looks like.

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