Covered California: Fast and Easy Sign-Ups
By Dianne Anderson
Getting ready for the Thanksgiving feast has everyone in the family wondering what exactly that’s going to look like this year.
Healthcare advocate Ernesta Wright has one good workaround to the six-foot apart problem.
She plans to drive an hour away to visit her daughter where the whole family will catch up for a mile or two walk around a scenic trail. They’ll burn off some calories before dinner, all while getting that important family connection.
“We’re going to be walking socially distanced. We’re taking care of our mental health, spending time with one another on the walking trail. After our walk, everybody goes home – everybody goes home,” she emphasized.
Wright, a longtime health advocate, is particularly concerned about this vulnerable time for the Black community. Most of all, she wants everyone to be prepared and get signed up with Covered California healthcare so it’s there when it’s needed.
Before the outbreak, the Black and Brown community, although eligible, were not taking full advantage of sign-ups. Today COVID-19 presents other challenges in getting the community into Covered California, and Medi-Cal service.
Technological barriers are an issue, but cultural barriers are a concern. She said the Black community doesn’t readily trust strangers calling on the phone, and asking for personal information.
“I ask certified enrollers that if you call, let them know that the GREEN Foundation sent them because we are a trusted community partner, we have put in place some of those conversations,” said Wright, who covers social media outreach for Covered California and partners with California Black Health Network.
With recent laws, Wright is encouraged that there is another added layer of health protection as COVID-19 cases in a third wave now being called a tsunami.
“The CARES Act is that you cannot be denied health services, COVID or not, through the CARES Act,” she said. “It’s peace of mind.”
Rhonda Smith with California Black Health Network said they are using every available safe way to reach out to the community, especially under the constraints of increased COVID-19 cases.
In pre-pandemic times, getting everyone that qualifies signed up on time was hard. Now, there is more attention to trying to reach everyone in creative ways, especially online.
“We are doing outreach through social media, online events, and focusing on faith-based organizations, black-owned barbershops and hair salons. We are providing more education and resources through our website and the dissemination of collateral material,” said Smith, interim executive director of CBHN.
Getting through the winter months, she said that community awareness about the need for health benefits has expanded.
“I feel that they are aware of what Covered California offers but not always aware of the full range of benefits they have once they are enrolled in a plan. We have added more certified enrollers to our team to cover the entire state rather than just San Bernardino,” she said.
Narda Smith, no relation, is a Certified Enrollment Counselor, said she is ready and waiting to help anyone who wants to sign up.
She explains the process to clients and works with them to make registering easy and seamless.
“My phone is ringing, but it’s not ringing off the hook. I’d like to hear it ringing off the hook,” said Smith, who is also a partner with the Cal Black Health Network.
COVID has gripped the nation and the world, and she said health advocates everywhere are trying to catch the community’s awareness. Some of her members she signed last year circling back, and have called to make sure their coverage is intact.
She hopes everyone eligible can get signed up before the open enrollment January 31, 2021 deadline.
She invites everyone to call to see what the program offers.
“People don’t realize that they will get a $695 penalty if they don’t sign up,” she said. “They can call me, they can text me, they can email me, anyway they would like to reach me is totally fine and I will respond.”
A recent Covered California policy brief states concerns over the pandemic impact on communities of color.
“There is compelling and deeply troubling evidence that people of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 – with African Americans, Latinos and some Asian-Pacific Islanders having higher infection and mortality rates. In addition, there are data that indicate some of these same groups are likely to be overrepresented in industries most impacted by the recession,” according to the statement.
To sign up, call Narda Smith at 562.587.3348
For health referrals, and cancer resource information, see Ernesta Wright at http://www.thegreenfoundation.net
For Covered CA enrollment information, see https://www.coveredca.com/individuals-and-families/getting-covered/special-enrollment/
For more information on the penalty, see https://www.coveredca.com/individuals-and-families/getting-covered/penalty-and-exemptions/
For more information, see http://www.cablackhealthnetwork.org