Uninsured

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Remaining Uninsured Face Challenges in Cost and Simply Signing Up

Leaburn Alexander works two jobs and does not have health insurance. Here, he is on the start of his 3-hour commute home from the job he works as an overnight hotel janitor. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

Leaburn Alexander works two jobs and does not have health insurance. Here, he is on the start of his 3-hour commute home from the job he works as an overnight hotel janitor. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

By Lisa Morehouse

When the Affordable Care Act rolled out last fall, Californians enrolled in both Covered California and expanded Medi-Cal in high numbers. But there are still millions in the state without health insurance. Undocumented people don’t qualify for Obamacare benefits. Many others still find coverage too expensive, or face other obstacles in enrolling.

One of those people is Leaburn Alexander. I meet up with him at 6 a.m. as he is finishing his shift as the night janitor at a hotel near the San Francisco Airport. He clocks out just in time to catch the hotel’s shuttle back to SFO, where he will catch a bus.

“Right now I’m on the beginning of my commute,” he tells me. “After an eight hour shift, my commute is like 2 and a half hours.”

I accompany Alexander on his commute to East Palo Alto, about 20 miles south. It actually takes three hours, on the hotel shuttle plus three more buses. He does this commute 5 days a week. Continue reading

Survey: 3 Million Californians Newly Insured Under Obamacare

Under the Affordable Care Act Sandra Lopez, 41, owner of Las Fajitas in Newport Beach, obtained health insurance for the first time since arriving in the U.S. in 1990. (Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

Under the Affordable Care Act Sandra Lopez, 41, owner of Las Fajitas in Newport Beach, obtained health insurance for the first time since arriving in the U.S. in 1990. (Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

A significant portion of previously uninsured Californians gained medical coverage through the nation’s health care law – about six in 10 during the state’s first open enrollment, according to a survey released Wednesday.

All told, about 3.4 million people who didn’t have health insurance before sign-ups began last fall are now covered, according to the survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The largest share of the previously uninsured — 25 percent — enrolled through the state’s Medi-Cal program, which has long covered poor families but was expanded this year to include adults without children. Nine percent purchased private plans through the subsidized insurance marketplace, Covered California, which opened in October. And 12 percent became insured through their jobs, the researchers found. Continue reading

Despite Obamacare, Why Some Choose to Skip Health Insurance

Scott Belsha says he opted out of buying health insurance because he has never had it and has managed to stay healthy (Stephanie O'Neill/NPR).

Scott Belsha says he opted out of buying health insurance because he has never had it and has managed to stay healthy (Stephanie O’Neill/NPR).

By Stephanie O’Neill, NPR

Despite a surge in enrollment in the two weeks before the April 15 deadline to enroll for health insurance under the federal health law, many more Californians still haven’t signed up, and they’re unlikely to.

Many people are uninterested, confused or skeptical.

Scott Belsha, from Long Beach, Calif., falls in the skeptical category.

“I’ve been consumed with living my life, and I’m fortunate to be healthy,” he says. He works as a musician and carpenter, and he’s never had health insurance. His parents, who own a small business, always paid cash for medical care, most of which they were able to get from a doctor friend.

“I haven’t ever been to the hospital or broken a bone,” he says. “But I’m 34, and I should probably start thinking about it.” Continue reading

Expert: Millions More Uninsured Will Get Coverage in Next Three Years

Covered California application in Chinese.

Covered California application in Chinese.

Now that the final numbers from Covered California’s first open enrollment period are in, experts are already looking ahead to the next steps.

Nearly 1.4 million Californians have signed up for health care coverage through the exchange. Another 1.9 million are now covered by the expanded Medi-Cal program. That’s almost 3.5 million state residents.

And yet 5.8 million Californians remain uninsured.

Gerald Kominski, professor of Health Policy and Management and director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, said these numbers are on target with early projections. Continue reading

Memo to Washington: Lessons Learned From California’s Obamacare Rollout

Certified specialist helps a consumer apply to Covered California at a free enrollment fair at Pasadena City College. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Certified specialist helps a consumer apply to Covered California at a free enrollment fair at Pasadena City College. (David McNew/Getty Images)

At the same time that California was releasing its latest enrollment numbers under Obamacare on Wednesday morning, advocates, experts and government officials at all levels gathered in Washington, D.C. to talk about … the Affordable Care Act in California.

Certainly, the rollout of Obamacare in the state has not been without its challenges and yet — California has 12 percent of the nation’s population and nearly 25 percent of all sign-ups nationwide. In addition to the more than 800,000 people currently enrolled in California, another 877,000 Californians are likely to be eligible for Medi-Cal. That’s on top of another 652,000 people who transitioned to Medi-Cal from the Low Income Health Program (more on that in a minute). That’s well over 2 million people total.

Diana Dooley, secretary of California’s Health and Human Services Agency, wasn’t about to gloat. “California is certainly not ready to put up a mission-accomplished banner,” she noted. But there was a lot of respect for California — and a desire to learn — from those in the room at the briefing. Continue reading

New Bill Would Extend Health Coverage to Undocumented Immigrants

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

In a push to cover immigrants excluded from the nation’s health reform law, a California state senator has proposed legislation that would offer health insurance for all Californians, including those living here illegally.

The bill, SB 1005, would extend state-funded Medi-Cal to low-income immigrants who, because they are in the country without permission, are now eligible only for emergency and pregnancy coverage. It would also create a marketplace similar to Covered California to offer insurance policies to higher income immigrants who lack legal status.

It’s not clear how much the new coverage would cost or how the state would fund it.

Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat who represents Long Beach and southeast Los Angeles, announced the proposed legislation at a press conference Friday. He said immigrants contribute to the California economy and deserve to have access to health insurance. Continue reading

Days Away From Signing-up, Many Californians Still Don’t Understand Obamacare

Women knit as they attend a Senior Information & Resource Fair in South Gate, California September 10, 2013 . The event included a discussion of how the Affordable Care Act, also called 'Obamacare' will impact senior citizens and what insurance plans will be available to them. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

Women knit as they attend a Senior Information & Resource Fair in South Gate, California September 10, 2013 . The event included a discussion of how the Affordable Care Act, also called ‘Obamacare’ will impact senior citizens and what insurance plans will be available to them. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

In five days, a key piece of the Affordable Care Act goes live in California — the state-run insurance marketplace Covered California. Yet, most Californians eligible to participate, are confused.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey released Thursday, finds three in four state residents eligible for government-subsidized private plans are either unaware they quality, or wrongly believe they don’t qualify.

This survey was taken just about a month ago.

KQED’s Mina Kim spoke to Mollyann Brodie, the Director of Public Opinion and Survey Research and Senior Vice President for Executive Operations at Kaiser Family Foundation, about the survey. Continue reading

Field Poll: Strong Statewide Support for Health Care Law

Supporters demonstrate in favor of the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on the health care overhaul. (SEIU International: Flickr)

Supporters demonstrate in favor of the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on the health care overhaul. (SEIU International: Flickr)

While Americans as a whole remain sharply divided over the Affordable Care Act, a majority of California voters — 54 percent — support the federal health care overhaul, a new Field Poll shows. Just over a third of Californians — 37 percent — oppose the law.

This strong support is not terribly surprising in a heavily Democratic state. In addition, more than one in five Californians is uninsured. Support for the health care overhaul is two-to-one among those without insurance or people who say they or a family member has gone without coverage in the last two years.

The Field Poll also dug into the nitty-gritty of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, specifically the Health Benefit Exchange, an online marketplace where people will be able to shop for health insurance. California was the first state to pass legislation to commence setting up an exchange. Starting next fall, people will begin enrolling for coverage that will begin January 1, 2014. Continue reading

One in Ten California Veterans are Uninsured

One in ten California veterans lack health insurance. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation)

Ten percent of California veterans don’t have health insurance or don’t use Veterans Affairs (V.A.) care. That’s just slightly below the 10.3 percent rate among veterans around the country.

That’s according to a report by the Urban Institute. Co-author Jennifer Haley says there are 108,000 uninsured vets in the state, second only to the number in Texas.

“In our study someone is uninsured if they don’t have any of the types of insurance coverage you’d think of for general population and they also don’t report using V.A. care,” says Haley.

Haley used data from the 2010 American Community Survey to look at the rates among non-elderly vets, ages 19-64. She says disproportionate numbers of the uninsured were also unemployed and unmarried. Continue reading

Uninsured–and Still Against the Health Law

Libertarian Paul Ruffino, 55, has been looking for an insurance plan since leaving his previous job. Several insurance companies refuse to cover him because he has pre-existing conditions.

Libertarian Paul Ruffino, 55, has been looking for an insurance plan since leaving his previous job. Several insurance companies refuse to cover him because he has pre-existing conditions. (Photo: Sarah Varney)

Today marks the second anniversary of the federal health care law, and, unless you’ve been depriving yourself of news for the last several weeks, that same law will be front and center before the Supreme Court starting Monday. Here in California, uninsured Californians have a particular stake in the Court’s actions.

Madera County is a largely conservative and agricultural area where one in every three people lacks coverage. While many people say they want the Supreme Court to throw out the federal health law, I found that many there are struggling to reconcile their political views with the basic need for health insurance.

I started off in Oakhurst. Here, just a few miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park, is the Sweetwater Steakhouse, a local watering hole where no one is shy about their opinions of President Obama’s signature initiative, including people like Joe Stern. “ObamaCare is absolutely horrible, horrible, horrible. It should struck down immediately.” Continue reading