In California, some with big needs have high hopes for Obamacare

In California, some with big needs have high hopes for Obamacare
At the South L.A. Power Festival on Saturday, Gabriela Serrato, left, participates in a survey on better health with Dulce Rosas, 17, and Eric Bartolo, 17. Rosas and Bartolo are students at Fremont High School. Serrato, 29, came to the festival to find out more about Obamacare and to get involved in community organizations. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Healthcare coverage is an issue that weighs heavily on Alfred Luevano's family.

Luevano, 35, of Boyle Heights came to the Healthcare Partners Medical Clinic on Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park for a medical checkup, but also wanted answers about Obamacare. The federal healthcare overhaul, after years of debate, officially opened enrollment on Tuesday in state health insurance exchanges, with California looking to play a lead role.


Luevano said his mother, who is 56, has high blood pressure and doesn't have health insurance. His father, who is 60, is unemployed, and the family has had to scrape money together to pay for medical care.

Obamacare, he said, could be the answer they have been waiting for.

"Nobody wants to see their parents fade away," he said.

Daniel Romero, 24, showed up at Long Beach Memorial Hospital. He tapped the side pocket of his sweatshirt where he keeps his inhaler handy.
Romero, who has no health insurance, has had severe asthma problems. He said that when he was a child he had to be rushed to the hospital more than 10 times, including twice by ambulance.
"Medicines are so expensive that I'm going to need insurance eventually," Romero said of the hundreds of dollars he spends every year for medication.

Romero, who is studying recording engineering at Long Beach City College, said he has had to turn to friends for help with his medical expenses.

He's hoping that the launch of the California program, called Covered California, will help him get the coverage he needs.

"At least if it's as good as it sounds," he said.
Such health insurance exchanges seek to offer the uninsured access to competitive plans from a host of insurers. California, the nation's biggest health market, has a goal of enrolling more than 2 million people by next year, the most of any state.
But at the Downtown Women's Center in Los Angeles, chief program officer Amy Turk said health insurance is just one of her clients' many needs.

"Healthcare is crucial to ending homelessness," said Turk, who added that her clients don't know when their next meal will be or where they'll sleep at night. "Our population is dealing with many challenges and urgent issues."

--Times staff writers Alicia Banks, James Barragan, Kristina Bui, Paresh Dave, Saba Hamedy, Soumya Karlamangla, Ryan Menezes and Jon Schleuss contributed to this report.