By Peter V. Lee
Executive Director, Cover California
Change takes time, and the Affordable Care Act is the single biggest change to our health care system in 50 years. While millions of Californians have gained health care coverage in this new era, many people still do not know about the new options and benefits available to them.
New research shows there are more than 2 million uninsured people in California who are eligible for either Covered California or Medi-Cal. Although we have all worked together to dramatically raise awareness about Covered California and the Affordable Care Act, 36 percent of those uninsured say they do not know about the financial assistance that can help bring health care within their reach.
This is significant because the same research shows that the financial help, or subsidy, is the most important factor that drives people to sign up for health care coverage.
Making Health Care Coverage the Norm; Not the Exception
That’s why Covered California is asking for your help in promoting a culture change. Many of the remaining uninsured have adopted a “culture of coping.” They have figured out how to survive without insurance if they get sick or injured. They skip care, split pills or rely on emergency room services when their situation gets too difficult to endure.
Together we want to build a “culture of coverage” where having health insurance is the norm, not the exception. The next opportunity in this historic process begins Nov. 1, when Covered California starts its third open-enrollment period. We know people who qualify for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal can apply for coverage at any time, but open enrollment is a time to promote access for all Californians.
Clinics Can Be Agents of Creating the New Health Care Culture
The Community Clinic Association of Los Angeles County and its members have played a vital role in promoting new coverage opportunities and laying the groundwork for this culture change. The clinics have been on the front lines of promoting health equity for many years, and you are a trusted voice across Los Angeles. People know you, they know your work, and they know your commitment.
We need you again. You can help us build a healthier California by engaging your communities on social media and by using your websites, newsletters and emails to spread the word about open enrollment, Covered California and the financial help that is available to thousands.
Let your neighbors know that 90 percent of Covered California enrollees qualify for some level of financial help and that the average consumer saves 70 percent off their monthly premium. Let them know about the benefits of coverage and how they can be protected.
Scan news articles in your community and add your thoughts to the comment sections. Look for opportunities in your community to promote the culture of coverage through letters to the editor and guest editorials. Develop relationships with reporters in your area and conduct media interviews in your language and in your community’s newspapers. Most importantly, encourage others to share their story.
I’ve often said that the success of the Affordable Care Act depends on how successful we are in California. And our success in California hinges on how well we all do together in Los Angeles. Thank you for everything you have done. We have much to be proud of, but we are not finished yet. Covered California shares your commitment to being here for the long haul, which is what it takes to change culture.
We need to continue that work in the weeks, months and years to come, to expand access to quality health care and reduce health disparities.
Thanks for the opportunity to work with you to provide Californians with the health care coverage they need and deserve, while driving down health care costs and building stronger communities.