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A Novel Use for a Pocket Card

Local students create handy tool to answer patients’ questions about insurance
By Aaron Silver, MS2

There I was, a budding first-year medical student, having a nice Thanksgiving with my family. Like at every family gathering, somebody stirred the pot with a comment about the current state of affairs in this country. This time, it was about health care. And this time, I was a medical student. Somehow, that gave me some authority. Eventually, every eye in the room settled on me, hoping for factual answers. To my great shame, I had none.

After nearly two years of medical school, I had more to learn about the Affordable Care Act and health care reform. After speaking with fellow students, residents, and physicians, it became clear to me that they didn’t know much either. They could not give advice to their patients, or point them in the right direction if they had additional questions about getting covered.

The Origin of a Simple Solution

This all changed after I attended a lecture by Ram Krishnamoorthi, MD, MPH, on the practical aspects of the new law. I was blown away by how simple a solution can be. For example, as physicians, we can refer patients to a “navigator,” an individual who guides them through the process of getting insurance and gaining access to the appropriate services.

To spread basic knowledge about the new law and encourage patients to investigate their insurance options, we created an informational pocket-sized reference card for health care providers. Many physicians and students already use pocket cards to fill their knowledge gaps for CPR protocols, dosing regimens, and disease processes. Thus, we chose this modality for provider education and point-of-care use. We then partnered with Kohar Jones, MD, of Doctors for America, and medical students from the University of Chicago and Loyola University to identify pertinent information for the pocket card. After a series of beta tests, the card was ready.

Empowering Providers with Information

The card explains why patients should obtain insurance coverage, and includes a flow chart with pointers on how to discuss the subject with patients. Another section contains several frequently asked questions about the law, and finally, there is a table showing subsidy income qualifications. With this pocket card tool in hand, we believe medical providers will feel more confident in encouraging their uninsured patients to seek health insurance and to learn more about the Affordable Care Act.

Thousands of cards have been distributed to students, residents, and attending physicians in the Chicago area. While presenting at the Doctors for America National Leadership Conference, we were asked to make pocket cards for specific states like Arkansas, Washington, DC, Maryland, Ohio, Connecticut, Florida, and Texas. So now the card is helping medical providers and patients all across the country.

Be Ready on Nov. 15

Data show that 69% of uninsured patients do not know that tax subsidies are available and another 59% lack knowledge about new insurance plans, according to a Get Covered America report in December.

With the next open enrollment period starting Nov. 15, a whole new group of uninsured and underinsured patients will be asking us how they can get health insurance coverage for their families.

We hope that providers armed with this pocket reference card can give them answers.

If you would like to print out your own card or provide feedback, please contact Aaron Silver at

Mr. Silver is a second year medical student at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.


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