Photo of the Jenkins family at Easter

The Jenkins Family

Photo of Dave and Tim Jenkins walking on baech

Dave and Timothy visiting Long Beach Island.

When Dave and Jana Jenkins decided to return to the United States in 2012 following 19 years of missionary work in Africa, the pair expected to face challenges. What the parents of five didn’t foresee was healthcare being a costly barrier to their assimilation back into American life.

“Most of our professional lives we’ve been missionaries and were overseas,” Jana said. “So, it’s been a little harder to get our start here in the U.S. Because of that, we’ve kind of fallen into a low-income family.”

With their son Timothy requiring surgery and care for a pre-existing condition, Dave and Jana, in 2015, sought help navigating the complex task of finding affordable health insurance. That’s when they connected with the DuPage Health Coalition, a United Way of Metro Chicago community partner.

The coalition helped the family enroll in health insurance and, later, accepted them into its Silver Access Program to further reduce their healthcare costs.

With their son Timothy requiring surgery and care for a pre-existing condition, Dave and Jana, in 2015, sought help navigating the complex task of finding affordable health insurance. That’s when they connected with the DuPage Health Coalition, a United Way of Metro Chicago community partner.

The coalition helped the family enroll in health insurance and, later, accepted them into its Silver Access Program to further reduce their healthcare costs.

“Our work is rooted in the belief that being poor should not be a barrier to being healthy,” said Karen Doyle, Director of Development & Communications for the DuPage Health Coalition.

The Jenkins Family

A family of seven, the Jenkins returned to America when their eldest daughter enrolled in college in Wheaton, Illinois. Wanting to live nearby, the family relocated to the Midwest and, eventually, settled in DuPage County.

The transition was challenging and, at times, required the parents to work numerous jobs to support their family.

“We did really well in Africa, and then we came to the States and we kind of fell into categories that made it difficult for us to find substantive employment,” Dave said. “At one point, between the two of us, we were doing four different jobs to pay the bills.”

In addition, it was nearly impossible for the family to find affordable health insurance that covered care related to Timothy’s cerebral palsy, a muscle condition that created nerve damage in his right hand.

“We fall into the category of self-employed, and I have a son with a disability. We would typically not be able to get insurance, or we would get insurance that was expensive and generally poor coverage,” Dave said.

In 2015, three years after their move, Dave connected to a healthcare navigator in DuPage County who walked him through the process of enrolling in health insurance. Together, they found a plan on the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace that covered the family for about $54 per month. “I remember when we got done, I was just stunned,” Dave said. ‘It was like ‘Wow, I’ve never had such good coverage for so little.’”

he following year, that cost fluctuated, rising to $300. Dave inquired about the DuPage Health Coalition’s healthcare assistance program and was soon approved for its Silver Access program. It proved to be incredibly necessary, as Timothy would soon undergo a surgery that greatly improved his quality of life.

“The cerebral palsy created nerve damage and the worst part of it is in his hand,” Dave said. “Without being able to grip anything, he can’t use any of his other muscles.”

“They cut here to extend the tendons in my [forearm,] so they could get my arm to go more like this,” Timothy, an athletic high schooler, added, straightening his bent wrist with his other hand. “[With the help of a brace,] I can use it a lot easier now. I can go to the gym and lift weights and stuff.”

Without their enrollment in Silver Access, the costly surgery and aftercare could’ve devastated the family’s finances, Dave said.

“We had been one of those families who don’t go to the doctor and everything that comes up causes this emotional fear,” he added. “Sometimes, you’d end up with medical bills that would take you a couple of years to pay off, but, [with Silver Access], it has been a completely different world for us.”