Covered California opened for enrollment Tuesday morning. (Lisa Aliferis/KQED)
By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
Carrying Spanish-language brochures, outreach worker Sandra Pena walked around a crowded health clinic in Bell Gardens in Southern California early Tuesday morning.
“Have you heard of the program Obamacare?” Pena asked a group of patients. A few nodded. Others stared blankly.
As enrollment began around the nation, the scene at this Wesley Health Center underscored one of the major challenges facing officials – overcoming the lack of awareness.
Some had never heard of the new law and few knew that Oct. 1 was the first day of enrollment.
Nearly all of the patients in the crowded waiting room were Latino, including several first-generation immigrants. Some had never heard of the new law and few knew that Oct. 1 was the first day of enrollment.
“There are tons of people who don’t know what’s going on today,” said Valerie Lopez, an outreach worker at the center.
Pena explained to the patients at the health center that starting Tuesday, they could sign up for new health coverage that would begin Jan. 1. Depending on their income, they would either qualify for free insurance through Medicaid (called Medi-Cal here) or for discounted private insurance through Covered California, the state’s online health insurance marketplace. And she warned about the penalty that most people who don’t have insurance would face in 2014.
The patients asked many questions: Do I have to pay a fine if I am not working? Do I still qualify for Medi-Cal if I own a home? Are there people to help me fill out the application? Pena didn’t know all the answers, but she said people would be available soon to help with enrollment. There was no one at the center who could actually help people enroll. They are still being trained. Continue reading