Merced area health officials discuss second enrollment period

07/24/2014 9:55 PM

07/24/2014 9:55 PM

With the second open enrollment period approaching this fall, Covered California representatives and Merced County health officials discussed ways to increase the number of insured residents in the area during Thursday’s Health Consortium meeting.

Irene Ng, a program specialist with Covered California, said that while the exchange continues to analyze data from the first open enrollment period, officials estimate an approximate 2.1 million Californians will be enrolled in both subsidized and unsubsidized health plans by 2016.

Preliminary data presented during Thursday’s meeting revealed that before the coverage expansion, 50,700 residents in Merced County were uninsured, of which 18,700 were estimated to be eligible for Medi-Cal and another 23,250 were eligible to enroll in a Covered California qualified health plan. Nearly 9,000 were ineligible due to undocumented status.

According to reports, of those eligible, only 8,403 Merced residents enrolled in a Covered California plan as of April 15. The number of those enrolled in Medi-Cal is unclear due to the ongoing, year-round process and the high number of applications pending approval.

Rafael Gomez with Pacific Health Consulting Group, who presented the county-based data, said this type of information could be used for counselors and officials to determine who is enrolling, who is not, and which groups still need to be targeted and educated. County health officials have also used this data to calculate the difference the first open enrollment period has made in the area and to estimate how many more need to be insured.

In Merced County, the most difficult to engage are young adults, members of mixed immigration families and people living in rural communities, according to feedback from local certified enrollment counselors. Data also revealed that the most successful strategies for outreach are through a trusted messenger such as a family member and through TV and radio public service announcements.

Also highlighted during the meeting were important upcoming dates for those who are already insured under Covered California. On August 1, the state health exchange will start preparing consumers for a renewal process by sending them letters of instruction if any additional information is needed, Ng said.

From October to November, consumers will start receiving renewal packets from Covered California. During this time, people may update their eligibility information or make any plan changes, if needed. The last day to make any changes to insurance plans and to make premium payments for coverage that will start on January 2015 is Dec. 15.

The next Covered California open enrollment period will run from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, 2015. Medi-Cal is open year-round.

For those seeking assistance enrolling in Medi-Cal, Golden Valley Health Centers and Building Healthy Communities will host an outreach and enrollment event on Saturday at Joe Stefani Elementary School, 2768 Ranchero Lane. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Counselors ask people to bring their driver’s license or identification card, their Social Security card, permanent resident card or certificate of naturalization, pay stubs and 2013 federal tax returns with W-2 forms.

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