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L.A. County officials vote to create Obamacare marketing plan

County supervisors direct health officials and others to attend and sponsor community events to alert people about the new healthcare law's effects.

October 08, 2013|By Seema Mehta

Because of the vast number of uninsured people living in Los Angeles County, it is going to be one of the primary places in the nation to measure the effectiveness of Obamacare. On Tuesday, county leaders voted to create a marketing plan to inform residents of their options under the Affordable Care Act.

"This is one of the most significant and important things that is going to go on in Los Angeles and [it] still has tremendous challenges," county Supervisor Gloria Molina said. "We know that there are people that are concerned about it. I think at the end of the day, it's going to have some bumps along the way. The most important part is for the community to have a clear understanding of how it's going to function for them, how they're going to negotiate through the process."

The county Board of Supervisors directed local health officials and others to attend and sponsor community events such as health fairs to alert people about the new healthcare law's effects. It was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich opposing it because of his concerns about the law, given reports of businesses turning full-time workers into part-time workers to avoid having to provide health coverage.

"There are too many problems," Antonovich said. "I think we're not doing [this in] the best interest of the public in telling them about a project that has these types of problems associated with it."

The heads of the departments of health services and public social services also briefed the board about how the county is gearing up for implementation of the act. Sign-ups began Oct. 1, with the coverage beginning Jan. 1. Officials said they are receiving many calls from people having trouble accessing Covered California, the state's new insurance marketplace.

The county is receiving "a large number of questions about Covered California," said Mitch Katz, director of the county Department of Health Services. "We are helping people to understand the computer glitches that have occurred at the state and federal level."

Open enrollment will continue through March, Katz noted.

"We encourage people to be calm, to call again," he said. "There's still time to get coverage by January."

Both departments are also focused on getting people enrolled in Healthy Way L.A., a no-cost program for poor county residents ineligible for Medi-Cal that provides preventive and primary care. Starting Jan. 1, these people will be transferred to Medi-Cal as part of Obamacare.

County officials set a goal to have 300,000 people sign up with Healthy Way L.A. by the end of the year, and have reached 275,000 enrollees. A call center is staffed by 150 people who are taking applications, including 2,815 in the last week, said Sheryl Spiller, head of the Department of Public Social Services.

"Things are moving along and we're ready," she said.

seema.mehta@latimes.com

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