Health Advocates Ready For Covered California
By Dianne Anderson
Everything community residents need to take charge of their health is now ready for the Westside of San Bernardino.
All they have to do is show up and sign up.
Local community health advocates are mapping out strategies for the biggest time of their year starting October 15, when open enrollment for 2020 begins for Covered California.
A big part of their outreach message is that the service includes plenty of free preventive care, like blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, diabetes testing, free mammograms, prostate and cervical cancer screenings and free vaccinations.
But don’t delay signing up because the penalty is steep.
“Everyone must have some kind of coverage,” said Linda Hart, founder of the African American Health Coalition. “The penalty is coming into play now. If you don’t pay it, it rolls over, and a lot of people will have their income tax garnished for not having insurance.”
Not signing up during enrollment can take a bite out of taxes the following year. According to Covered California, the penalty could run as high $695 or more when individuals file their 2020 state income tax return in 2021.
Hart is on a mission to get more individuals seriously thinking about their health, and the health of their entire families. She wants everyone to understand that for most people in the area, the health coverage is extremely affordable.
A lot of insurance companies are dropping the high premium, and she knows of one person who is only paying $5 a month.
Hart is handling local sign-ups and outreach under the lead nonprofit, the California Black Health Network, and partnering with health educator Ernesta Wright of the G.R.E.E.N Foundation, who will handle social media outreach.
Both have a strong passion for healthy communities.
Hart is looking to get more participation with sign-ups through the expertise that both CBHN and Wright brings to the table. Statewide, she said the data still shows an overall gap in insurance access for coverage for everyone, including African Americans.
In the past, high deductibles were a significant barrier to access.
“Now that insurance companies are looking at lower premiums, it will give more access to different types of insurance that individuals can enroll into,” she said.
Besides enrollment, they plan to bring various events and resources to the community. They are also seeking partnerships and opportunities with other churches and nonprofits.
For those that like to connect in a personal way, she is inviting everyone who needs coverage to walk in to learn more about their services and get signed up at the African American Health Coalition. The office is located at 1505 W. Highland Ave, New Hope Family Life Center, Room 19.
Ernesta Wright, executive director of the G.R.E.E.N. Foundation, has served Orange and Los Angeles counties for several years as a certified Covered California outreach educator.
Wright said the partnership with Hart and CBHN offers yet another layer of support to get the community health coverage, and that both entities have a strong reputation for empowering the people.
“It’s making all of our collaborations stronger, we’re bringing in our own strengths,” she said. “This makes a big difference in their health coverage with a support system right there in their neighborhood through Linda.”
Wright has also been active in raising awareness of cigarette smoking.
Vaping is a huge concern for the Black community, particularly menthol products, which are having a deadly and national health impact. Last week, she attended the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting which unanimously agreed to ban vaping products countywide.
“That was really historic,” she said. “The win for the African American with this process is the menthol part and impact on the population, it is a win big time.”
In all, African Americans remain more at risk of dying from menthol cigarettes than other groups in California, according to the California Department of Public Health.
“Although African Americans usually smoke fewer cigarettes and start smoking cigarettes at an older age, they are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases than Whites,” states the CDC on their website.
In addition to Wright’s role with the local outreach, she will also concentrate on health literacy to make sure the community understands the open enrollment process, and the benefits of setting up with Covered California.
Her focus is to open the lines of communication, to shed light on Hart’s outreach and to get more people in the community covered.
“This will help support and educate people,” she said. “We need to push that needle a little further.”
For more information, see www.theaamhc.org or call 909-880-1343