LOS ANGELES – Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles (Advancing Justice – LA) announces the historic launch of the Open Enrollment period for eligible Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) to apply for health coverage through Covered California, the state’s new Health Insurance Marketplace. Created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, the program will provide access to affordable health coverage to millions of previously uninsured Californians.
In July 2013, Advancing Justice-LA and 21 of its key Health Justice Network (HJN) partners received a $1 million grant from Covered California to conduct outreach and education to AANHPIs statewide. The outreach and education grant program will continue through the end of December 2014 to reach the diverse AANHPI communities and to make sure they know about Covered California and how to enroll for health coverage.
As Advancing Justice – LA launches its work under the Covered California grant, it is also taking part in a major national outreach initiative to maximize enrollment for AANHPIs and build the capacity of community-based organizations to serve and advocate for AANHPI health. In addition to Advancing Justice – LA, the consortium of groups working on this initiative comprise Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, Asian Pacific Islander American Health Forum, and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations.
The initiative will be working in 16 states covering every type of marketplace and targeting geographies where AANHPIs are concentrated, where mainstream efforts are not reaching these communities, and where community partners are providing on-the-ground support. In addition to HJN, joining the national outreach initiative are more than 20 community-based organizations in 16 states: Arizona, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Washington.
“Health care reform will change our health care system in monumental ways and we must inform the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities about Covered California so that they understand the many benefits for our communities,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Advancing Justice – LA. “We have been conducting outreach and education activities about the ACA since its passage and our HJN partners will continue our education and enrollment efforts at hundreds of events in the next six months.” He added, “Close to 700,000 eligible Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in California could gain coverage through expanded Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program, or Covered California.”
As Doreena Wong, director of Advancing Justice – LA’s Health Access Project, explained: “October 1, 2013 marks a shift in our country’s history towards achieving health equity. We’ve been waiting for this moment to arrive for years – now our communities will have the opportunity to obtain affordable, quality, and guaranteed health coverage for their families and themselves – many for the first time. They will finally have some peace of mind if they or their families get sick.”
There are three main ways a person can apply: 1) using a computer and applying online; 2) calling the Service Center, which can help with the application; and 3) completing a paper application and mailing it in. Individuals can get help with the application in other languages by calling the Service Center or talking to Certified Enrollment Counselors, a role that some of Advancing Justice – LA’s HJN partners will be playing. Although the online application will be available only in English and Spanish, the paper application will be provided in six Asian languages: Chinese, Hmong, Korean, Khmer, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
HJN, one of the first grassroots program of its kind to address AANHPI health care, consists of a network of over 30 nonprofit organizations, health care providers, and small business groups throughout California. They serve the culturally and linguistically diverse AANHPI communities from Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and other AAs to the different Pacific Islander communities.
HJN members include: APAIT Health Center; API Equality-LA; Chinatown Service Center; Empowering Pacific Islander Communities; Filipino American Service Group, Inc.; Guam Communications Network; Korean Churches for Community Development; Korean Resource Center; National Asian Pacific American Families Against Substance Abuse; Orange County Asian Pacific Islander Community Alliance; Search to Involve Pilipino Americans; South Asian Network, Inc.; Thai Community Development Center; Thai Health and Information Services, Inc.; Tongan Community Service Center; and United Cambodian Community. Other regional partners include: Asian Resources, Inc. (Sacramento); Asian Law Alliance, Inc. (San Jose); Korean Community Center of the East Bay, Inc. (San Francisco Bay Area); and Operation Samahan, Inc. and Union of Pan Asian Communities (San Diego).
Nearly three years ago, President Obama signed the ACA into law, establishing new health care options, standards, and consumer protections in the health care marketplace. With the enactment of President Obama’s health care reform law, nearly six million Californians have access to more culturally and linguistically appropriate health care services. Through health care reform, Californians will be able to access health care coverage through two new main ways, the expansion of Medi-Cal and through a new marketplace, namely Covered California.
For AANHPIs in California, the stakes are high and the benefits of the ACA are even greater. The largest group of AANHPIs to benefit from the expanded Medi-Cal program is childless adults who previously were not eligible and make less than $15,856 or below $32,499 for a family of four. Covered California is the only private marketplace that will provide subsidies for individuals and families making between 139-400 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL), which is between about $15,856-45,960 for an individual and $32,499-94,200 for a family of four.
Covered California will provide an array of well-known health plan options that are region-specific with a standard set of ten essential health benefits. The programs are open to any U.S. citizen, including U.S.-born children whose parents may be undocumented and ineligible for the new health programs, and any “lawfully present” immigrant.