Final push in Merced to meet health care deadline

03/30/2014 9:27 PM

03/30/2014 10:48 PM

Merced residents are being given the final push to enroll in an exchange health insurance plan before today’s 11:59 p.m deadline.

Healthy House with a MATCH Coalition, along with People Improving Communities through Organizing California and Merced Lao Family Community have taken on the challenge of hosting a three-day enrollment event to accommodate those who have not yet signed up for a health care plan under Covered California or Medi-Cal.

Healthy House has hosted 11 sign-up events since open enrollment began in Oct. 1. Healthy House Executive Director Candice Adam-Medefind estimates around 300 households have been enrolled in a health plan by the nonprofit. Healthy House works with certified enrollment counselors who can provide services in eight different languages: English, Spanish, Hmong, Lao, Mien, Hindi, Punjabi and Portuguese.

During Saturday’s enrollment session, people trickled into the Healthy House office at 301 W. 18th St., knowing this would be one of their last opportunities to get enrolled before tonight and avoid the penalty of up to 1 percent of annual income.

Teofilo Ochoa made the trip from Los Banos after being referred to the Healthy House office by a friend. As Ochoa waited to be helped by a Spanish-speaking enrollment counselor, he admitted that waiting last-minute to get covered was not in his initial plans.

“I work all day so it was hard for me to make time, Ochoa said in Spanish. “Then I had to figure out where I could go for help. I also wanted to do a little bit of my own research and first see how things worked out for others before I signed up.”

Even though California is sticking to today’s open enrollment deadline, consumers will have two extra weeks to complete an online application that is started before midnight.

According to Adam-Medefind, this extra time will benefit enrollment counselors who get very busy at times.

“If we get totally stormed, enrollment counselors can begin the online application, complete the first few pages, and then set up appointments later in the week for applicants to come in and finish the process. So this extra time will be very helpful,” Adam-Medefind said.

Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who is Adam-Medefind’s son, stopped by the Healthy House office Saturday to show his support and encourage his constituents to take action before it’s too late.

“For Covered California and the Affordable Care Act to be effective and to ensure we all get quality health insurance at the most affordable rate, everybody needs to participate,” said Gray. “I think the community organizations who have been involved in this have really figured out how to effectively sign people up and do a good job of it.”

Gray and Adam-Medefind agree that community outreach has been key in educating people about the importance of obtaining health insurance, but know there are still many people who are hesitant.

“I’m very optimistic that this will be a successful program,” said Adam-Medefind. “The challenge is convincing people that enrolling in a health care plan is in their best interest. Everyone thinks they’re healthy, and that’s true until something happens – either an illness or accident, and when that happens they’ll have to pay so much more.”

Healthy House will continue enrollments today from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Merced’s Golden Valley Health Centers, 727 W. Childs Ave, will open its doors at 8 a.m. today for a similar sign-up event.

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