Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee (right, in blue shirt) joins marchers in Los Angeles Jan. 19 at the Kingdom Day Parade honoring the birthday and memory of Martin Luther King Jr.
African American Enrollment on the Rise; Executive Director Encourages Consumers to Beat Enrollment Deadline and Avoid Tax Penalty
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
? Martin Luther King Jr.
Amid statewide events and ceremonies honoring the birthday and memory of America’s greatest champion of civil rights, the head of California’s agency that administers the Affordable Care Act joined citizens and community leaders in Los Angeles on Monday to encourage enrollment in the historic health care program.
Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, was among the dignitaries at the 30th annual Kingdom Day Parade.
During a pre-parade breakfast and along the parade route, Lee asked audiences to spread the word about affordable health insurance offered through Covered California. He reiterated that most consumers can get an upfront tax credit — money back from the federal government to help pay for their health insurance. Consumers also may qualify for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal, which has enrollment year-round.
“This is a new era of health care, which speaks to the dream of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that all Americans share in the wealth, health and opportunity in our country,” Lee said in a statement. “The Rev. King’s vision on health care — made reality by the leadership of President Obama and the Affordable Care Act — was that health care become a right and not a privilege, where no one can be turned away and where financial assistance is available to help pay for the protection they deserve.”
Lee also reminded consumers that the deadline to enroll for health insurance is Feb. 15 and that those who qualify and fail to do so may face financial penalties at tax time.
“It’s important that consumers understand now that the cost of remaining uninsured is rising,” Lee said. “This year, a family of four earning $70,000 a year could pay close to $1,000 in their taxes if they remain uninsured in 2015.”
Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee (left) chats with Leslie Sykes, an anchor at KABC Los Angeles, during a breakfast ceremony honoring Civil Rights legend Martin Luther King Jr.
The penalty, known as the “shared responsibility payment,” takes effect for 2014, and many who were uninsured will see an impact when they prepare their taxes due in April of this year. However, the penalty rises substantially for 2015.
The financial penalties are just one part of the equation, Lee said. “Putting off care when you need it can harm your health or even endanger your life. Every month a consumer goes without coverage is a month of risk.”
In the past few weeks, Covered California has increased its advertising, marketing and outreach efforts to reach larger numbers of African-American, Latino and Asian residents. That push is paying off, the agency said, as more members in those groups have applied for coverage during the first part of open enrollment.
Through Jan. 12, 311,741 consumers were determined eligible for coverage in Covered California, and an additional 228,766 selected a plan. African-Americans constituted 6 percent of those determined eligible for coverage.
Lee noted particular success in attracting African-Americans determined eligible for coverage through Covered California.
This year, Covered California increased its share of paid advertising aimed at African-Americans from 7 percent in 2013-2014 to 9.9 percent in 2015, including television, radio and print advertising in black newspapers. In addition, Covered California has worked with African-American churches and other community groups to promote enrollment.
“One of our lessons learned last year is that partnerships matter, and joining forces with trusted African-American institutions has produced great results,” Lee said.
Among the African American groups partnering with Covered California is the Riverside County Black Chamber of Commerce, which is helping educate and enroll consumers.
“Dr. King spoke about health care disparities among minority and poor people more than 50 years ago and it’s an honor to be on the front lines today helping to change that,” said Ellary Bhimji, executive director of the Riverside County Black Chamber of Commerce. “It’s taken a long time to get to this place. It’s gratifying for me to see this happen. California is taking the lead in closing the health disparity gaps.”
Covered California has tens of thousands of Service Center representatives, Certified Insurance Agents, Certified Enrollment Counselors and county eligibility workers in neighborhoods across the state to help consumers obtain health coverage as soon as possible.
To find in-person assistance or an enrollment event that is close to them, consumers should visit www.CoveredCA.com and click on the “Find Local Help” button.