“The fact that a quarter of the previously uninsured Californians ended up enrolled in Medi-Cal points to what a key piece Medicaid is in the puzzle in getting more Americans covered,” said Mollyann Brodie, executive director of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Public Opinion and Survey Research.
“That was a piece that often got less attention during open enrollment season,” she said.
Most of those who got covered said it was easy to sign up. Leslie Ziegler, 31, said signing up for insurance through the Covered California website only took about an hour. Before Obamacare, Ziegler, a San Francisco high-tech entrepreneur, had been turned down by several insurance companies because she had ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease that requires costly medication and treatment.
Companies can no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Ziegler is thankful, saying having access to insurance and health care whenever she needs it is “a wonderful thing.”
Some respondents said, however, that it was difficult to confirm their coverage. Even now, hundreds of thousands of Medi-Cal applicants are waiting for cards confirming their eligibility.
Teresa Martinez sought help at a Los Angeles health clinic to sign up for Medi-Cal, but months later, she is still waiting for her card. Martinez, a Koreatown hair stylist, said she is anxious to see a doctor to treat arthritis and pain in her leg, as well as help her keep her blood sugar in check to fend off diabetes.
“It seems like I am just hitting closed doors,” she said last week. “I don’t know what’s up.”
‘A Huge Relief’
Despite an early lag in Latino enrollment, the survey found that more than half of previously uninsured Latinos ultimately got coverage.
“It’s a huge relief,” said Newport Beach restaurateur Sandra Lopez, a 41-year-old Mexican immigrant who enrolled her family, including a young adult son with epilepsy, in a subsidized private plan through California’s exchange.
The state’s far-reaching efforts to spread the word about the law and get people signed up made a difference, researchers said. About 60 percent of Medi-Cal or Covered California enrollees had someone help them sign up. About seven in ten uninsured Californians who were contacted about signing up did so, compared to about half of people who were not contacted.
Tue, Jul 29 2014