Open enrollment questions? Swope Health can help!

You are probably seeing messages these days about Open Enrollment, and sometimes it can all be confusing.

“Open Enrollment” is a window of time that happens once a year when individuals sign up for health insurance and other benefits, as well as adjust or cancel current plans. It is usually limited to a few weeks, and individuals often have to wait until the next open enrollment period to make changes.

Here are the important Open Enrollment dates:

  • Individual & Family Affordable Care Act Marketplace plans: Open enrollment is November 1 through January 15. (Affordable Care Act, or ACA, is often referenced as “Obamacare”.)
    • If you enroll by December 15, your coverage begins on January 1.
    • If you enroll between December 16 and January 15, your coverage begins on February 1.
  • Medicare: Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) is October 15 to December 7. The Initial Enrollment Period (IEP) for Medicare is around age 65.
  • Medicaid: People can enroll anytime.

At Swope Health, we have a team of insurance navigators who help guide people through the process of enrolling in Marketplace insurance, Medicaid, and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).


This service is free and open to everyone. Your information is confidential.


If you’d like help with enrolling in any of these programs, you have options:

  • You can walk in and request assistance from our navigators at Swope Health Central.
  • You can call and schedule an appointment for a time that’s convenient – call (816) 599-5590.


When you come in, please be sure to bring your ID. This can be a Driver’s License, Passport or Permanent Resident’s card. If you have an income, bring one month’s worth of proof of income, such as pay stubs. If you or family members you are enrolling were not born in Missouri or Kansas, please bring a birth certificate as well.


What can I expect in a plan?

According to the website, all Marketplace plans cover:

  • 10 essential health benefits, including prescription drugs, emergency services, hospitalization, laboratory services, pregnancy, maternity and newborn care, mental health services, and substance use disorder services.
  • Preventive healthcare services for adults, women, and children. These services are provided free if they are delivered by a provider or doctor in your insurance plan’s network.
  • Coverage for pre-existing conditions: once you are enrolled, no insurance plan can reject you, charge you more, or refuse to pay benefits for any condition you had before your coverage started.


What will a plan cost?

Your costs will depend on your expected household income for the year. There are options for low-cost, Medicaid and CHIP programs, as well as tax credit options. A Navigator can help you estimate your income, compare plans, and get exact prices when you fill out an application.


Learn more about the federal Health Insurance Marketplace:

If you know of anyone in the community – yes, anyone – who needs assistance with enrollment in these coverages, please encourage them to call our insurance navigator team at (816) 599-5590.

Let’s Support Breastfeeding Families

August is National Breastfeeding Month, proclaimed by the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, an independent non-profit coalition of more than 100 organizations guiding policies and practices to support breastfeeding.

Swope Health is proud to educate patients, clients, associates, and community partners on the importance of providing support to breastfeeding families. We are committed to the well-being of every person in every community we serve.

We are hosting a virtual program on “Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents” from noon-1 pm, Thursday Aug. 31.

The program will feature information about Missouri’s breastfeeding rates, and the laws and initiatives that are designed to support lactating families.

The program can help nursing employees understand their rights in the workplace.

Hosted by Swope Health’s Women Infants and Children (WIC) Office, this event will feature presentations from two special guests:

  • Stephanie Pruess, RD, LD, IBCLC, State Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, WIC and Nutrition Services; and
  • Lisa Schlientz, MPH, IBCLC, State of Missouri Breastfeeding Coordinator, who works with programs in WIC and Nutrition Services, and Maternal and Child Health.

Registration for the free virtual event is open now. Click here to sign up! (Once you’ve registered, an appointment will be sent to your e-calendar.)

Additional activities in support of Breastfeeding Month:

  • Providing “Snack Bags” to WIC pregnant and breastfeeding families (while supplies last).
  • In partnership with Healthy Blue, a benefit info session will be held 10 am to noon on August 25 at Swope Health Central. 
  • Holding two raffles during the month to provide families with items that support breastfeeding.

Ongoing breastfeeding support:

  • Nutrition and Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Staff
  • Breastfeeding warmline 816-799-1428
  • Breastpumps for WIC program participants as available
  • Quarterly breastfeeding support group, next meeting is 1 pm August 24. This is a virtual meeting on Zoom,, meeting ID: 892 0503 5735

Why Breastfeeding?

The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee notes that mother’s milk is the optimal food for babies, as it plays a critical role in building and supporting an infant’s immune system. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that breastfeeding can reduce risk for certain conditions for mothers and babies.

For more information, explore these resources about breastfeeding:

Swope Health can help you with Medicaid Enrollment

Starting Oct. 1, the state of Missouri expands Medicaid coverage to an estimated 275,000 individuals, following Missouri voters’ approval of the expanded program and a court ruling upholding it.

Under the expanded program, an individual making $18,000 a year or less will receive healthcare coverage. A family of four is eligible if income is $36,000 a year or less.

Under the old program, the state limited access to Medicaid to people with disabilities with children and poor families. For example, a family of four could not earn above $5,550 a year, and adults who are not parents were not eligible at all.

The new benefits will be provided via MO HealthNet, Missouri’s Medicaid insurance program. The Missouri Department of Social Services begins evaluating the applications on Oct. 1.

Swope Health is ready to provide free assistance to anyone who is interested in applying for benefits. We’re ready to help – call us at 816-599-5653 or 816-599-5654. Swope Health has a team of “navigators” ready to assist with the sign-up processes.  

For individuals whose income exceeds the Medicaid guidelines, the Swope Health navigators can also assist with enrollment for health coverage in the Affordable Care Act Marketplace and the Childrens’ Health Insurance Program (CHIP) of Missouri. The annual enrollment period for the Marketplace opens in November 2021.

“At Swope Health, we want to encourage as many people to enroll as possible,” said Arsenial Runion, Director of Patient Experience. “We believe healthcare is a right, and this program should help more people receive needed care.” Swope Health estimates that nearly 10,000 current patients may be eligible for MO Healthnet expanded coverage.

With expanded coverage, more people will have access to health care earlier. The MO Healthnet program should also make it easier for patients to get access to medications they need – whether it’s asthma inhalers or insulin or other prescriptions – as well as laboratory work and other tests for preventive care. The program should help patients avoid going to the emergency room by providing access to regular care.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the federal government pays 90 percent of the cost of the expansion, leaving the state to cover 10 percent.

Missourians interested in Medicaid expansion enrollment can also find support at or online at

Swope Health is grateful for grant funding from the Health Forward Foundation and the National Association of Community Health Centers to support Medicaid enrollment efforts.


Expanded Pharmacy and Drive-Through Service Now Open!

Swope Health Central has completed a major redesign of its Pharmacy facility, including a new drive-through lane for fast and easy prescription services.

The new space is now located on the west side of the main lobby at Swope Health Central. It’s bright and open, and at twice the size of the previous space, easy to find.

The drive-through lane allows clients to drop off a prescription and return for pick-up 30 minutes later. The service is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“It’s all for patient convenience,” said Michael Hattaway, Chief Pharmacist. “You don’t have to get out of your car and come inside, and that can be especially helpful if you have kids with you or if you’re not feeling well.”

The drive-through lane was designed during the COVID-19 pandemic and envisioned as a way to provide quality care while minimizing direct contact. The drive-through lane is for vehicles only, and for safety reasons, it is not available for walk-up service.

Making Care Visible

In addition to the drive-up service, the new pharmacy now has a bank of windows and a large open layout.

“Now our pharmacists are visible, not hidden away behind a wall, and we have space to offer a variety of over-the-counter products too,” Hattaway said.

Products include first aid supplies, vitamins, treatments for cough, cold, allergies and minor stomach upset. All are from the Swope Health pharmacy wholesaler, which keeps their prices competitive. “It’s very cost effective for our patients,” Hattaway added.

New Delivery Service Pilot

More service changes are planned, too. The Pharmacy is currently trialing a prescription delivery service to the 64130 ZIP code. The service provides afternoon deliveries daily Monday through Friday for pre-paid prescriptions. If you live the in the 64130 ZIP code and would like to try the service, ask the pharmacy for details.

In addition, the pharmacy also will add a consultation space later in the year. This will be a private room to allow pharmacists to meet with patients to demonstrate use of medical devices or answer questions about medications.

Pharmacists are always available for patients, Hattaway said, noting the new design encourages more engagement.

“Interaction is much better now,” he said. “All three of our pharmacists are available and accessible. We love talking with all of our patients and helping them understand their prescriptions.”

Swope Health invites you to visit the new pharmacy and drive-through and let us know what you think.

“There’s been a lot of excitement about the new drive-through and we have heard quite a few people comment on how nice the new space looks,” he said.  “We’re also open to your suggestions of other ways we can add services or products.”

Why does Black maternal health matter?

Ebony Peterson, Community Health Worker at Swope Health, was only 22 weeks pregnant when she went into pre-term labor. After the initial shock, she was expecting a long hospital stay on bed rest. Instead, her baby was born just two days later. Baby Aubrey was tiny at 1 pound, 2 ounces, but mighty in overcoming the odds.

Ebony is sharing her traumatic birth story in honor of Black Maternal Health Week, which is April 11 to 17. This week of activism and education was started by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance four years ago.

“There’s power in sharing our birth experiences,” Ebony says. “It helps to learn we are not alone. We can support and learn from one another. We can spur change and, in turn, improve the health of pregnant and new moms in our minority communities.”

Why focus on Black maternal health?  

Missouri has the 7th highest maternal mortality rate in the nation with 35 deaths per 100,000 births, according to World Population Review. Missouri’s mortality rates for Black moms skyrockets to 65 deaths per 100,000 births.

Nurture KC works to close this gap and fights for health equity through education, advocacy and one-on-one support for moms – most of whom are minorities – through its Healthy Start program. Ebony provides such support for fellow moms, as she is one of the program’s Community Health Workers.

Baby Aubrey’s journey

Ebony watched her own preemie daughter spend four months in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Aubrey was down to weighing just 15 ounces early on. The infant was on a ventilator to help her breathe and had a feeding tube to receive nourishment. She also was diagnosed with Sickle Cell disease, a blood disorder, and Craniosynostosis – a rare birth defect where the bones in a baby’s skull join together too early. Aubrey had surgery to fix her skull when she was 2 years old.

“My daughter is a trooper and overcame so much, but we knew it could have been way worse based on how early she was born. To put it in perspective, her birthdate is June 3, but my due date was Oct. 1,” Ebony says. “We feel fortunate for her overall good health and for the medical team who took care of her during her early days. The hospital was our first home as a family of three and we knew she was receiving the best care possible there. We were lucky. Now Aubrey is 4 years old and the sweetest, talkative, independent little lady!

“I know we all have different experiences, but my background can help me empathize and advocate for fellow moms. Together, we can push for systematic change that works to level the playing field for Black moms, as I know many are not as fortunate as I was. Everyone deserves the same chance to be healthy.”

This article is from Nurture KC . Nurture KC is a community collaboration dedicated to reducing infant mortality and improving family health. Nurture KC works to change policy for broad impact, transform systems to improve health outcomes at a local level, and provides one-on-one support to connect families.


Free Support for Affordable Care Act Open Enrollment

Do you need healthcare insurance?

Swope Health can assist you with finding a healthcare insurance plan in the federal insurance marketplace – and now’s the time! We are in an Open Enrollment period, now through May 15, 2021.

Why now?

One of the earliest actions President Joe Biden took was to re-launch the Open Enrollment period for Americans to sign up for healthcare insurance under the Affordable Care Act or ACA. The executive order is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has left 30 million Americans without healthcare coverage.

The act specifically recognizes the exceptional circumstances caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: “Black, Latino, and Native American persons are more likely to be uninsured, and communities of color have been especially hard hit by both the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn.”

What is the ACA Marketplace?

The marketplace ( is operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It brings together a range of health insurance plans to provide coverage – including for pre-existing health conditions – you can buy regardless of income. The program is designed to improve access to healthcare services, especially for those who may be unemployed or unable to afford traditional healthcare insurance.

At the Marketplace, you can select insurance that covers healthcare services from doctors, hospitals, community health centers and other providers in the United States.

Swope Health can assist you with registering for healthcare insurance in the ACA Marketplace.

How to get help:

You can call Swope Health at 816-599-5590 to talk with an enrollment specialist at Swope Health. Spanish-speaking specialists are available.

Or, if you prefer, you can schedule an appointment to meet with a specialist – either in person or through a video conference call. If you schedule an in-person meeting at any of the Swope Health clinic locations in Missouri and Kansas, you will be required to wear a mask, be screened upon entry and maintain appropriate physical distancing.

In the appointment with the specialist, you can also learn if you qualify for Medicaid and if so, the specialist can help you sign up for Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

What do I need to apply?

You can start by exploring the marketplace ( on your own to get an idea of 2021 health plans and prices. You’ll be asked about your income, so be prepared with tax information or pay stubs.


Additional resources:

Simple and Healthy: A New Thanksgiving Tradition

The holidays are just around the corner and, for many of us, it’s a season that tempts us with special treats – cookies, egg nog, pies, candy canes! It doesn’t have to be a season that brings weight gain, however, if you start with a plan.

Priscilla Perez Schmid, Swope Health’s Clinical Registered Dietitian, suggests setting a realistic health goal and making a plan. While there is predictability to holidays, like a favorite food tradition, you can also make your holiday look different each year. You can choose to make your traditions healthier.

Here’s an example of a recipe that’s delicious and healthy, just waiting to be part of a new guilt-free holiday tradition: Our Thanksgiving Salad. (You can download and print the recipe, if you want.)

“If you can visualize a goal, you can take steps to rearrange your life events to get closer to the outcome you want,” noted Priscilla. “This can help you celebrate the holiday and the effort you put into your goal.”

If your goal is to better manage your weight or your diabetes, you’re invited to contact Priscilla at or by calling 816-599-5841. She can help you assess your lifestyle and understand how you can eat healthier.

It’s a perfect time to start planning for a healthier you!

Tradition in a Spooky Season

Traditions are important. Merriam-Webster defines traditions as “the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction.” In other words, traditions are what we gift the generations to come.

In the middle of this pandemic it may be difficult to find a safe way to partake in the customary traditions. We all have to do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and this gives us an opportunity to start new traditions. Those new traditions can keep you and your family safe this Halloween season.

You can start a new tradition with these yummy treats, the Crunchy Mummy – a combination of a Crunchy Pumpkin and Mummy cheese snack. This snack was prepared by Priscilla Perez Schmid, Clinical Registered Dietitian with Swope Health, based on recipes from the US Department of Agriculture. (Download the Halloween Recipes.)

“Traditions are a celebration of belonging,” Priscilla said. “It is a moment to enjoy that place and time that can describe some of our best memories.”

Additional resources:

And, if you are looking for options for a safe trick or treating event, remember TreatTown! Join us at Swope Health Central, 6:30 to 8:30 pm Saturday, Oct. 31, for our drive-through Halloween experience!

What new traditions will you build this spooky season?

It’s Safe Sleep Awareness Month

October is Safe Sleep Awareness Month, a month that is designated to promote healthy sleeping habits for newborns and raise awareness about sleep-related risks to infants.

“At Swope Health, we provide safe sleep education with every parent enrolled in the Healthy Start program, every day – not just in October,” said Ahkeya Howard, Lead Community Health Worker for the Kansas City Healthy Start Initiative.

Every year, approximately 3,600 infants die from sleep-related infant deaths including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The American Academy of Pediatrics has developed a series of recommendations to reduce the risk of sleep-related infant deaths. These recommendations are at the heart of the education that the Healthy Start program provides to parents.

Take a look at this short 20-second video – you’ll see Community Health Worker Ebony Peterson highlight the basics: the baby should always be alone on a firm mattress, on his or her back with nothing else in the crib.

The Kansas City Healthy Start program, which is administered by Nurture KC, provides a free “pack ‘n play’’ portable travel crib to any mother in the program who needs one.

Show us your safely sleeping baby!

This month, as part of the promotion about safe sleep habits, the Healthy Start program is partnering with Truman Medical Centers in a Safe Sleep Image Contest.  Any of the participants in Healthy Start can send in photos of their infants sleeping safely to the Swope Health program. All the images that show a safe sleep environment for an infant (up to 12 months old) will be entered into a drawing.

Winning entries (drawn at random) will receive one of three $25 gift cards to Wal-Mart. All entries that show a safe sleep environment will get a Safe Sleep Sack – like a mini sleeping bag for an infant, used especially in cooler weather to help keep the baby warm. The Safe Sleep Sack lets you avoid using blankets in the crib.

You can check out the Swope Health Facebook site and Twitter feed (@SwopeHealth) for images from our participants.

For more information on Safe Sleep, see these resources:

Swope Health’s Employment Service helps find “Dream Jobs” for clients

In March 2017, Swope Health started a new employment program for clients with the support of the State of Missouri’s Vocational Rehabilitation Service. In the first year, the program successfully placed 55 clients.

IPS Supported Employment

Swope Health Employment Service

The Swope Health Employment Services team, from left, is Janelle Strozier, Brandon Ford, Ron Knisley, Kelli Fisher, and LaShelle Ross. Kelli is the supervisor for the team of four employment specialists.

The program, called IPS Supported Employment, helps people with behavioral health conditions find competitive employment. The IPS in the name stands for “Individualized Placement Support,” meaning the program assists with finding a position that aligns specifically with the client’s needs and preferences.

Kelli Fisher, Swope Health Employment Services Supervisor, said the process starts with a referral from a case manager. If a client’s care plan includes an employment goal, the client is directed to the program.

“If a client wants to work, we work with them to find a job,” she said.

The team works under a rapid placement approach, typically getting a client in a position within 60 days – far faster than some job programs that can take months.

The Process

When a client is referred, a member of the employment services team meets with them to develop a vocational profile. The client identifies at least three areas of employment they are interested in – retail, construction, administrative functions, environmental services, food service, health care, etc.

The next step is a meeting with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, to get approval for joining the state’s program. Clients are required to provide two forms of Identification such as a Missouri I.D., birth certificate, social security card or a passport. With approvals in place, the Swope Health team works to make the client’s goals a reality.

“The best is when a client says, ‘This would be my dream job,’” said Ron Knisley, Employment Specialist with Swope Health. “We call that ‘job carving’ when they can identify the perfect fit. We love that. It gets us excited to make it happen. We like the thrill of the chase.”

Ron notes the team has successfully placed clients in dream jobs: one who wanted to be around animals now works in a veterinarian’s clinic. Another client who enjoyed the open road found a job driving a truck.  Others have found dream jobs in administrative office work and as a hostess at a local restaurant.

The team helps the client prepare for the job search – using work history to build a resume, write a cover letter, and get ready for the first interviews.

The program can also provide some financial support, like funding for gas cards or bus passes, or clothing for the interview. If the client gets the job, the support can continue – buying a uniform or helping with necessary certifications or licensing fees.

Program Expansion

The early success of the program is leading to expansion. The team now has four employment specialists, each working with up to 25 clients at a time.

Kelli said the four team members use their own network of contacts and relationships with area employers to find full-time or part-time positions for clients. That network now has a multitude of employer contacts, and many of them reach out to Swope Employment first when they have an open employment opportunity.

The client support doesn’t end with the job placement. The support may include attending orientation with the client and helping sign up for benefits, or following up with the employer and client after a week on the job. It might entail coaching or providing feedback to improve job performance, or help with financial planning. Ron noted the team provides ongoing support for up to one year after placement.

When it works, the good feelings spread to everyone: the employer, client and the team.

“It is absolutely priceless to see someone get their first paycheck ever,” Ron said. “We see their confidence go from zero to 50 all at once. What a difference a job makes.”