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Californians urged to get health insurance ahead of open enrollment deadline

TJ Manotoc | TFC News California

Posted at Jan 28 2022 08:25 PM

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Healthcare has become a much more pressing issue for Americans in the last two years due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

With rising costs and uncertainties in some policies, more and more people are seeing the value and importance of securing themselves and their families with some type of health insurance. That's why the Golden State's Covered California program is ramping up efforts to reach out to all to make sure they meet the deadline of January 31 for open enrollment.

In a recent press event, the leadership of Covered California stressed on the importance of health coverage especially amid the pandemic. The latest report from the state shows a record high of 1.8 million Californians already signing up for comprehensive insurance through the program. Enrollment increased by more than 350,000 people over the past two years, partly due to financial help from the federal government's American Rescue Plan which has lowered costs, and with the pandemic highlighting the importance of addressing disparities in healthcare. California leaders are encouraged to enlighten the uninsured. 

"The drive to get people insured brings home the fact that covered matters, in particular as California seeks to address health equity on many prompts... At the core of our need to address health disparities and health equity is making sure people have insurance coverage," Covered California executive director Peter Lee says. "We've made such progress, but we aren't done. We know there are too many people who are still uninsured and eligible for coverage."

As for its Filipino population, the state has also made major progress in closing health equity gaps with Fil-Am enrollment increasing by 38%. But despite these significant increases in enrollment over the past two years, the uninsured rate for Filipino Americans in California remains significant at 6.4%, higher than the statewide average. 

According to Fil-Am Dr Ninez Ponce of the UCLA Center for Health Policy, who has been tracking the progress made in insurance coverage over the last 20 years, there are still healthcare disparities within the AAPI community. "These are the people who are most at risk for being uninsured and for the 18 to 65 group, those that are working. So being healthy is really important. The uninsured rate has gone down dramatically for all races following the pattern of decline... but there's still room for all groups to get coverage," Ponce notes.

Ponce points out "when you look within the Asian average, we see that there are differences across Asian subgroups. The uninsured rate for Koreans at 15% is one of the highest uninsured rates in California. The uninsured rate for Filipinos is also higher than the average uninsured rate for Asians."

According to Dr. Ponce, prior to the American Rescue Plan, some of the top reasons why people don't have insurance include confusion concerns about cost, and not being eligible or losing coverage after being cut from their jobs. But Dr. Ponce insists that it's easier now because of programs in place, and that all ethnicities, no matter their income level, need to make health insurance a priority.

"I can't overemphasize the value of health insurance, especially at a time of economic uncertainty and health risks during the Covid-19 pandemic. People who have insurance are likely to have a usual source of care. By having access to health care, you can get annual exams and tests that could detect prevent and treat serious illness but what's important about insurance is that you are protected from the financial hardships when you have to pay for the medical bills from an unexpected illness or injury for yourself or for your family members. So the January 31 deadline is coming and Covered California is a way for you to gain affordable or no cost coverage that will protect you and your family."

With the January 31 deadline coming up, Covered California officials say they are there to help anyone with questions. Brand name plan insurance can be as low as $10 a month. Options can also be explored and anyone can find out if they are eligible for financial help at coveredca.com. Consumers who sign up by January 31 can have their coverage start on February 1.