Extending the reach

McKenzie Jackson | 2/27/2014, midnight

Advocates are now stepping in to help boost the effectiveness of the outreach. For example, the California Endowment, in partnership with the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), has launched a $23 million statewide effort to boost Medi-Cal enrollment in 36 counties across the state. In a joint statement, the two organizations said the grants would “support overall efforts to increase awareness of Medi-Cal for those who are eligible, but not yet enrolled, while helping retain current members. It will emphasize reaching certain specific populations ... with educational information that is meaningful and relevant to their needs.”

“We know that one-on-one assistance is vital to helping those who are hardest to reach and most in need,” said Robert K. Ross, M.D., CEO and President of The Endowment. “We are excited to partner with DHCS to fund outreach and enrollment assistance at the local level. This is an important investment that will help hundreds of thousands of Californians enroll in Medi-Cal.”

Considering the numbers, those efforts appear to be worthwhile. According to Covered California, as of 2013 there were 8.5 million Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal. Thanks to Obamacare, up to two million more residents are expected to be eligible this year—with a significant percentage of those potential enrollees believed to be African American.

Thomas Duncan, CEO of Trusted Health Plan, a Washington D.C.-based managed healthcare organization, argues that African Americans are poised to be among the chief benefactors of the healthcare law. In an article entitled “African Americans Will Benefit Greatly From Obamacare,” published Feb. 6 in the International Business Times, Duncan wrote that a disproportionate percentage of Blacks will become newly eligible for health coverage.

“Prior to the Affordable Care Act, our nation’s healthcare system was discriminatory to both lower- and middle-wage workers,” he wrote, adding that socioeconomic factors and of debilitating and fatal diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. “But now, Obamacare will open the door to preventive, primary, and strategic specialty care for millions of African Americans and others.”

With those factors in mind, those who have been served by Covered California express hope that more African Americans will decide to enroll themselves and their families.

“Black people, we need that,” said Joseph Thomas, a 31-year-old Woodland Hills resident. He estimates that the Covered California plan he recently obtained online with his domestic partner would save their household about $1,200 per year. “[It’s important because] we don’t seem to go to the doctor as regularly as we should—but we always seem to have health issues and die earlier.”

To find out where you or a loved one can enroll in person go to www.coveredca.com and click on find local help.