Health coverage marketplace opens in CA

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Community groups to further educate Angelenos on health reform

LOS ANGELES – Unfazed by the partial government shutdown, Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, opened for business to provide Californians and small businesses access to affordable health care coverage from leading health insurance companies.

During a festive launch event held at Union Station in Los Angeles, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said that the health plan marketplace is officially open for business.

“Our phone lines are humming, our website is live, and we stand with thousands of Californians across the state, as we kick off our effort to help educate and enroll millions of currently uninsured Californians,” Lee said in a statement.

Tuesday’s launch in LA was the last stop in a series of Covered California events across the state. It marked the start of the open-enrollment period for individual consumers and small businesses looking to secure health coverage plans.

According to state officials,  (the official web portal of Covered California ) got as many as 650,000 hits during the first day of enrollment.

In a report by LA Times, Covered California spokesman Dana Howard said that the number of unique online visitors on Tuesday was estimated at 514,000. Covered California call centers received about 19,000 calls, he added. offers a wide array of resources and information that will help consumers determine if they are eligible for premium coverage, or no-cost or low-cost Medi-Cal. The site also features a section where users can shop and compare plans, and enroll for health coverage that takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Officials said that for a consumer to be covered as early as New Year’s Day on 2014, he or she must be enrolled no later than Dec. 15, 2013.

Open enrollment will end on March 31, 2014. After that, the enrollment period will take place from October 1, 2014 to December 7, 2014, and every year thereafter.

Covered California estimates that thru the health exchange, about 500,000 to 700,000 eligible Californians would be able to enroll for premium assistance to make health care more affordable.

‘Two million, too many’

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti, who also attended the launch event at Union Station, lauded the statewide marketplace for leading the way in providing affordable health care for Californians.

On the same day that the federal government was shut down due to budget disagreements in Washington, Garcetti said that as the nation witnessed the “price of inaction.” California will not be held back from making history.

“This will be a life changer for those of us who are one major illness or accident away from financial disaster,” Garcetti said.

The mayor lamented that this was the case for too many Angelenos. Garcetti, who calls himself a “back-to-basics” mayor, said that it can never get more basic than having a healthy family.

“There are 2 million uninsured people in LA county. That’s 2 million too many,” Garcetti said.

“That’s going to change, and that starts today,” he added.

The mayor also lauded the health exchange’s convenience, affordability, and impartiality in accepting enrollments. Covered California officials said that pre-existing conditions are not be a factor towards approval of enrollment applications.

Local groups continue outreach efforts for health reform

Earlier on Tuesday, Asian American, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) organizations held a press briefing for ethnic media to announce that they will continue their outreach efforts to educate their communities on health care reform in California.

Led by Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles (Advancing Justice-LA), the organizations represented a coalition of different communities including Chinese, Filipinos, Koreans,Thai, Tongan, Cambodians, South Asians; LGBT Asians, and Orange County-based Asian Pacific Islanders.

Advancing Justice-LA Executive Director Stewart Kwoh said that they are enthusiastic about the rollout of the enrollment period because a lot of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are interested in getting health coverage.

According to Kwoh, as many as 700,000 AAPIs without health coverage will be eligible for Covered California’s health plans or the extended Medi-Cal program.

Kwoh said that because the enrollment process is “quite complicated,” he encourages people to get information by going online, or by getting in touch with tAdvancing Justice-LA or its community partners like Search to Involve Pilipino Americans (SIPA) and Filipino American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI).

In July 2013, Advancing Justice-LA (then called the Asian Pacific American Legal Center) and 21 of its partner organizations received a $1-million grant from Covered California to conduct statewide educational outreach efforts to Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

“We’re funding over 20 community groups throughout the state to [spread] the right information in-language in a culturally sensitive way so that people really understand it,” Kwoh said.

“If you think about it, what a wonderful opportunity!” he added.

SIPA Executive Director Joel Jacinto lauded Kwoh and Advancing Justice-LA for their leadership in engaging the AAPI community on health reform.

“It’s significant because it’s about community determination. And there’s no one that’s going to reach out and take care of our communities better than we can (sic),” Jacinto said.

“Our mission in this partnership, along with FASGI, is to reach out to our over 50,000 Filipino families that don’t have health coverage. And this is important because [health coverage] is a major determinant of quality of life,” Jacinto added. 

(LA Weekend October 5-8, 2013 Sec A pg.1)

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