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Health providers fielding few questions on first day for Obamacare

October 01, 2013|By Ronald D. White
  • Luis Ramos, with his son Jacob, sought information on the Affordable Care Act last month at the East Los Angeles Health Fair.
Luis Ramos, with his son Jacob, sought information on the Affordable Care… (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles…)

For all the fuss over Obamacare -- the president's plan to extend health coverage to about 30 million Americans -- Southern California health providers were fielding only a smattering of questions on Tuesday, the first day of enrollment.

Supporters of the President's healthcare program are hoping for a big response from the uninsured in California, hoping it could help quiet the reform effort's many critics and persuade other states to embrace the reforms.

Officials at Covered California, the agency overseeing the state's health insurance exchange, have a goal of signing up more than 2 million people through next year, the most of any state.

Success of Obamacare may be riding on California performance

The state-run exchanges are marketplaces where individuals can buy health coverage from a host of competing companies, hopefully at reduced cost. They aim primarily to serve workers who get no health insurance through their employer.

On Tuesday at Long Beach Memorial Hospital, 50-year-old Tim Medeiros was waiting for his 22-year-old son to undergo a medical procedure. He also hoped someone at the hospital could explain whether Obamacare could help him get less expensive insurance.

Medeiros, a self employed legal mediator, said he was recently shocked to learn that his current monthly insurance premium with Anthem Blue Cross would increase next year from $40 to $318.

"I see $50,000 hospital medication bills and $5 charges for aspirin," Medeiros said. "Obamacare sounds like it will reduce some of those costs, but we'll see how this goes."

In downtown Los Angeles, at the Center for Community Health, near skid row, people with questions about Obamacare were told to come back on Thursday.

Erik Martinez, project coordinator at the center, said three of his employees still needed to finish with state training before they can enroll people in the program.

Given the state's size and diversity, Covered California says it needs about 16,000 enrollment counselors statewide. But fewer than 1,000 of those workers had been approved as of last count.

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

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