Deadline approaching for Obamacare enrollment

The March 31 deadline to sign up for insurance under Covered California is fast approaching, and for one branch of case workers, it’s crunch time to help people get signed up.

Rasheedah Scott is one of three certified enrollment counselors at the Verdugo Jobs Center, a title she earned through a training program to specifically assist individuals in joining the state’s healthcare exchange set up as part of the federal Affordable Care Act.

Since February, she and her co-workers have signed up about 240 people for healthcare, not by recommending a program, but guiding them through Covered California’s website, filling out applications and seeing what kind of coverage they qualify for.

While a majority of the people she’s helped are going to receive Medi-Cal, California’s program for low-income individuals, she’s also counseled people who could afford their own insurance and qualify for tax credits.

“There’s people and families who would rather sit down and get help if it makes them feel better as opposed to going home and not doing it right. It gives them immediate satisfaction,” Scott said.

And knowing a few other languages has especially helped as well.

Armenian, Farsi and Spanish are spoken among Scott’s team.

All eight of the enrollment counselors associated with Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank also speak Spanish and have collectively signed up more than 1,500 families through rolling enrollment fairs spanning the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, said Marie Mayen-Cho, director of Providence Access to Healthcare.

Glendale Memorial Hospital held seminars with Covered California insurance brokers from October through February, but assistance is still available online, said hospital President Jack Ivie.

“Online health exchange enrollment assistance is available on our website, and collateral materials, in English and Armenian are available throughout the hospital,” he said.

Under Covered California, those who make a maximum of $15,856 as an individual to a maximum of $32,499 for a family of four can get the government subsidized Medi-Cal.

Those who make a maximum of $45,960 a year as an individual to a maximum of $94,200 can earn tax credits to offset their monthly insurance costs.

Even groups that are not set up to help people enroll are trying to spread the word.

Barbara Howell, CEO of the Burbank Temporary Aid Center, said she and her staff try to point their clients in the right direction.

“I’ve had one guy [who signed up] come in and say ‘I’m paying $6, my COBRA was $400,’” Howell said. “They’re thrilled. That’s the kind of feedback we’ve gotten when people have used it.”

Anyone who fails to have Medi-Cal or purchase insurance by March 31 may be assessed a penalty of $95 or 1% of their adjusted gross income. There are a number of exceptions to this individual mandate, however, which government officials have said will be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Those who enroll by March 15 could have insurance by as early as April 1 and those that wait until the last day will have it by May 1, Scott said.

Enrollment won’t open again until October.

Scott says her days are filled with appointments, so people should act fast if they want help through the Verdugo Jobs Center.

“We still have two more weeks left, but those weeks are getting filled up as well,” she said.


Follow Arin Mikailian on Twitter: @ArinMikailian.


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