MERCED COUNTY — An estimated 64,189 consumers in nine Central Valley counties, including Merced County, have enrolled in subsidized and nonsubsidized health insurance plans, according to the latest enrollment figures released by Covered California and the Department of Health Care Services.
The number is enrollments recorded from Oct. 31 to Feb. 28. The new total is a 24.5 percent increase from the 51,524 enrollments recorded on Jan. 31 of this year. Kathleen Grassi, Merced Countys director for public health, said the number of enrollees specific to Merced County hasnt been released.
The Valley counties of San Joaquin, Kern, Stanislaus, Merced, Mariposa, Tulare, Fresno, Kings and Madera are about 7 percent of the statewide enrollment through Feb. 28, Covered California said. The local total includes 58,820 consumers eligible for financial subsidies.
Weve made significant progress in the Central Valley to enroll consumers in the health care coverage they want and need, said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee in a press release Monday. Communities throughout this region are responding to our message that health care is a right all Californians should enjoy. However, we still have lots of work to do to help tens of thousands of uninsured Central Valley residents get covered before the end of open enrollment on March 31.
Covered California also announced on Monday that 1 million people have enrolled in a health care coverage plan as of March 14.
Covered California has taken additional steps in an effort to appeal to specific groups. It has doubled its advertising campaign targeting Spanish-speaking Latinos and has made improvements to the Spanish-language website and informational materials.
Recently, Covered California teamed up with community activist Dolores Huerta, best known for co-founding the United Farm Workers labor union along with Cesar Chavez.
If Cesar was here today he would say to everyone who needs to get enrolled, especially our young people, we have to be responsible citizens, and we have to understand that if we do not do our part, we cant help our community, Huerta says in a video clip posted on the Covered California site.
Merced County has done some of its own outreach with the help of a $125,000 grant awarded last year by the California Endowment.
According to Grassi, the grant has been used in major part to expand the Merced County Health Care Consortium.
The consortium is a project in which members work with local health care providers and organizations to increase health care resources for the community.
As part of its monthly presentations, the consortium will dedicate April to the Young and Invincible, hoping to target a younger audience.
We try to tackle a different issue every month. This upcoming month we want to outreach to the 25 to 30 age group, who really make up the demographic needed to balance this whole program out. Thats who we want to address next, Grassi said.
Although Covered California enrollment ends March 31, enrollment in Medi-Cal is year-round.
Sun-Star staff writer Ana B. Ibarra can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.