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Outreach effort aims to get uninsured enrolled in healthcare

L.A. County is teaming with OneLA to hold enrollment events in places where those needing healthcare coverage naturally congregate, such as churches and schools.

March 25, 2013|By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times
  • Volunteers Edward Chavez, left, and Cori Racela, right, work on enrolling Alan Servin and his mother Ana Soltero, 54, in healthcare coverage at an L.A. County event at La Placita Church in Los Angeles.
Volunteers Edward Chavez, left, and Cori Racela, right, work on enrolling… (Anne Cusack, Los Angeles…)

Ana Soltero arrived at La Placita Church on Sunday holding an envelope filled with documents and hoping for one thing: to get health coverage.

She and her 20-year-old son, Alan Servin, had been receiving Medi-Cal but were mistakenly cut off last year. Now she was uninsured, feeling ill and wanting to see a doctor. "I came to see if you can help me with insurance," she told a volunteer.

Soltero was among dozens of uninsured Los Angeles County residents who went to the downtown L.A. church to get enrolled in public health insurance programs and find out where to seek care. The mobile enrollment event is an effort to extend the reach of the county's healthcare system and to reach people where they are — churches, schools and community groups. The goal is to hold ongoing enrollment events throughout the county in the lead up to the healthcare overhaul, which begins Jan. 1.

"Even though the county is moving as fast as it can toward healthcare reform, they aren't fully staffed," said Katie Murphy, managing attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, which trained the volunteers. "This is a supplement."

The county Department of Health Services has partnered with OneLA, an organization of churches, synagogues and nonprofit groups, to conduct the enrollment sessions. Volunteers are identifying people through the church parishes and doing pre-screening so the enrollment can occur on the spot. Some of the people are eligible for Medi-Cal, and others are being enrolled in Healthy Way LA, a temporary coverage program until the Medi-Cal expansion takes place in 2014.

The effort relies on trained volunteers, with help from Neighborhood Legal Services and the L.A. County Department of Health Services. The volunteers are also working to link people with clinics near their homes.

"The outreach effort is greater than one agency," said Richard Rodriguez, marketing representative with the county's health services department. "This is the private and public working together."

La Placita's Father Richard Estrada said he wanted to hold a mobile enrollment event because his parishioners need access to healthcare and are often more comfortable seeking help at the church than in health clinics.

"They're part of our community, so they trust us," he said. "We're saying, 'You're safe here. We're going to do our best to get you a medical home.'"

This was the second enrollment event held by OneLA. The first, held in Pacoima, enrolled more than 100 people, organizers said.

Soltero, 54, pulled out her documents, including identifications, Social Security cards, unemployment pay stubs and proof of residence. Soltero said she had heard about President Obama's healthcare overhaul but didn't know anything about it.

The volunteer typed her information into a computer and told her that he would get her and her son re-enrolled in Medi-Cal.

"That's good," she said. "The doctor is very expensive. It's very important to have insurance."

anna.gorman@latimes.com

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