Richard Figueroa, Director, Health & Human Services, The California Endowment
Thanks to the great work of many community organizations around the state, Californians are beginning to understand that staying healthy is not only a matter of routine visits to the doctor’s office, but is affected by the places we live and by our access to preventive health care services.
In fact, there are approximately 7 million Californians who have no health coverage, the vast majority of which are persons of color and lower-income families. That is nearly one in every five residents of the state, and according to health care experts it means those individuals are less likely to live long, healthy lives.
The federal health care law, also known as the Affordable Care Act, passed almost two years ago, is working to ensure that Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. While the new populations eligible for subsidized health insurance can’t enroll until later next year, there are a number of benefits available now that are helping California families find health coverage.
For example, the White House recently reported on the story of Augustina Rodrigues, a retired senior on a fixed income living in Winchester, Calif., who received a $250 check because of the Affordable Care Act that helped defray her prescription drug expenses.
In another example, the federal government has provided California a $10 billion “bridge to reform” fund to help the state prepare for and implement the new federal rules to take effect in 2014. That means expanded health coverage, today, for lower-income uninsured residents.
The “bridge” funding allows counties to expand eligibility in county-based programs and offer comprehensive benefits to some lower-income adults currently ineligible for Medi-Cal coverage. The state Department of Health Care Services estimates that as many as 500,000 adults ages 19-64 are eligible through this expanded coverage.
In addition to federal, state and county-level programs, community-based health organizations are actively working to enroll individuals who may not be aware that they are already eligible for existing low-cost or no-cost coverage like Medi-Cal or Healthy Families.
One such enrollment event is scheduled to take place May 19 in Oakland, a partnership between WE Connect, the Alameda County Public Health Department, Oakland Unified School Department and Causa Justa: Just Cause along with nearly a dozen other community organizations including Lifelong Medical Services, Street Level Health Project, Oakland Community Organization, First 5 of Alameda County, Bay Area Legal Aid, Communities for a Better Environment and many more.
For weeks leading up to the event, community organizations will be conducting extensive outreach efforts to educate and when possible, enroll, eligible residents. At the event, families will not only be able to find out if they qualify for health coverage, but they will be able to take advantage of free health coverage application assistance, dental screenings, flu shots, food giveaways and many more money saving resources.
We hope to see you there!