Last Update: Wednesday, August 20, 2014

People Rush To Sign Up For ObamaCare As Deadline Looms PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alex Garcia   
Thursday, 27 March 2014 04:35

A. Garcia / SFVS

But Extention Offfered To Those Who Can't Finish Enrollment By March 31

Margarita Sanchez arrived early last Saturday, March 22, at an Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) enrollment event at Vaughn International Studies Academy (VISA) in Pacoima and brought along all of her documents.

Less than an hour later Sanchez departed, fully registered for medical coverage through Covered California, the state health plan marketplace.

“My husband is retired and I don’t work. I had Medi-Cal, but I wanted a regular health plan," said Sanchez, who will pay $12 a month for her medical plan, thanks in part to government subsidies because of their income level.

“I think this good. Before we didn’t get anything and now we have health insurance in case something happens and we have to go to the doctor,” she said.

Sanchez added she was happy that she was able to register for "ObamaCare" before the March 31 deadline ends this current individual signup period. At least one hundred other people showed up at VISA last Saturday trying to make the deadline.

“It’s been crazy. We’re swamped with a lot of Latinos trying to get insurance," said Terry Rodriguez of the Van Nuys-based Center for Living and Learning, who was helping with the signups.

“People are signing up because they don’t want to miss on this opportunity to have health insurance they could not afford before,” she said. “People have gratitude, they can have coverage and get the proper help they need.”

At least three more similar enrollment events sponsored by Congressman Tony Cardenas are planned starting today, March 27, and this weekend, March 29 and 30. The Obama administration has announced, however, those persons who started their enrollment but are unable to complete the process in time will be granted an extension.

Officials said the grace period will be available to people on the honor system, meaning applicants will have to show that special circumstances or complex cases prevented them from finishing by March 31. The length of the extension had not been established by press time. According to the Associated Press, the administration's decision affects the 36 states where the federal government is taking the lead on sign-ups. But the 14 states running their own websites are likely to follow, since some had been pressing for an extension on account of their own technical problems.

Covered California officials announced last week that more than one million people had signed up for coverage since enrollment began in October.

“This is a historic threshold for our exchange, for the state of California and for the nation,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee in a statement. “It speaks to the immense need for the Affordable Care Act and the millions of people who have been waiting for affordable coverage.

“We are pleased and privileged to be helping a million people find the peace of mind that comes with having insurance.”

It is estimated there are 5.5 million uninsured people in California, and Covered California hopes many of them have signed up through them or an independent insurance company.

The main group of people Covered California officials are trying to enroll are Latinos, who make up the large majority of those uninsured. The company recently enlisted the help of iconic labor leader Dolores Huerta, a co-founder of United Farm Workers, to produce radio spots and videos available on YouTube in English and Spanish urging Latinos to sign up. Huerta has also appeared at local events in Los Angeles and Stockton in recent weeks to help spread the word about enrollment.

Still, there remains confusion among Latinos, particularly those in so-called “mixed-status families,” where the parents may be undocumented, but kids and relatives may be U.S. citizens or legal residents.

ObamaCare is only available to legal residents and citizens. Undocumented immigrants don’t qualify.

“It’s not fair that they don’t get the opportunity to get medical insurance, but it’s the law,” said Rodriguez, who has observed this confusion in many people since enrollment began.

Then there’s the issue of payment. You can qualify for government subsidies, depending on your income level, to help offset the cost of your health insurance. But many complain it's too expensive.

During a conversation with the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol in February, Lee noted that if you don't get health insurance, you will face a 1 percent penalty in taxes next year.

But “the real penalty is having to go to the hospital when you could have had health insurance, and walk out with a $100,000 debt” if you don't sign up for coverage by March 31, Lee said.

Those who sign up by March 31 will have health coverage starting May 1, and must pay their first premium by April 25.

The next Open Enrollment period is proposed to begin on Nov. 15 for health insurance coverage that begins January 1, 2015.

Those who had Medi-Cal before don’t need to sign up for any new coverage, as they are automatically enrolled in the new Medi-Cal program. Medi-Cal enrollment is open year-round. Under ObamaCare, this program which offers free medical services for children and adults with limited income and resources was expanded to cover all people under age 65, including people with disabilities, with incomes of $15,856 or less for a single individual and $32,499 or less for a family of four.

To sign up for one of the different health insurance plans offered in the state through ObamaCare, visit www.coveredca. com or call (800) 300-1506.