The next few weeks and months will see much debate and action on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including enrollment for the ACA that begins Tuesday, Oct. 1. Expert professors at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) are following the progress.
"I am very excited about the insurance program because it represents a very important step in ensuring that our nation’s population has access to quality health care,” said Britt Rios-Ellis, co-director of CSULB's Department of Health Science Graduate Program.
“For many of our nation’s 45 million uninsured, the initiative is a crucial first-step in engaging folks in preventive care through providing access to medical services that are accessible and within their economic reach,” she continued. “Many folks will no longer have to wait and see, which often results in the exacerbation of health care issues, resulting in ER visits and costly treatments when preventive measures or early, less invasive and expensive treatment could have been rendered.”
CSULB is also lending a hand in getting out information on the implementation of the ACA. On Friday, Sept. 6, the university will host a Covered California Town Hall meeting, one in a series of special forums for regional community leaders and key stakeholders of the new act. The event will be held from 2:30 to 4 p.m. in The Pointe in the Walter Pyramid.
According to Covered California, more than 5 million Californians could benefit from coverage offered through Covered California, and 2.7 million will be eligible for subsidies from the federal government. The key to Covered California’s success will be an education and outreach program. Outreach will be anchored in “bottom-up” community-based approach, beginning with this series of regional town halls that provide an update to stakeholders and solicit feedback on efforts and plans.
“One thing we’re really emphasizing is that we need to ensure some level of care for legal residents within the five-year window as well as the undocumented. I have a few colleagues who worked diligently on the hill to ensure that the bill passed,” said Rios-Ellis, who in addition to being a professor of health science is also the director of the CSULB-NCLR Center for Latino Community Health, Leadership, Evaluation and Training.
She believes the act is a job creator. She also thinks the vast majority of those who will enroll in Covered California work full-time, contribute to the state and national revenue and are a vital part of our future.
“I am also very impressed with the culturally and linguistic relevance of the Covered California website and services provided,” added Rios-Ellis. “Fact sheets are available in 12 languages and the calculator, which helps Californians estimate their costs, will soon be available in those languages.”
Another CSULB faculty member, Janice Frates, has been an evaluator for the Covered California outreach and education grant proposals. She also noted that the Affordable Care Act is the central focus of her graduate health policy class.
“The Affordable Care Act, or ‘Obamacare,’ is the biggest expansion of health insurance since Medicare and Medicaid were established in the 1960s,” said Frates, a professor of health care administration. “In California, it will provide coverage for about 5 million people through expansion of the Medi-Cal program and through Covered California, the new health insurance benefit exchange for individuals and small businesses up to 50 employees. Covered California is an exciting new concept--a state sponsored health insurance marketplace where individual and business consumers can comparison shop for plans with different benefit packages.
Still, Frates pointed out that just making a program or service available isn’t enough. People have to know about it and understand how it will benefit them.
“There are already many people who are eligible but not enrolled in Medi-Cal, which is free health insurance, because they don't understand how to enroll, or if they are not citizens, they worry that it may somehow prejudice a future application for citizenship,” Frates said. “The other reason I’m excited about the ACA is that so many of my students in health care administration will help to make it happen—especially those who are bilingual and bicultural.”
Frates’ research, consulting and community service focus is on access to care for low income and vulnerable populations. Most recently, she served as a proposal evaluator for the forthcoming Covered California outreach and education and provider education initiatives.
Covered California’s mission is to increase the number of Californians with health insurance, improve the quality of health care for all, reduce health-care coverage costs and make sure California’s diverse population has fair and equal access to quality health care. It is committed to ensuring Californians are aware of their health coverage options and is conducting marketing, outreach and educational programs to help raise awareness about the new opportunities for Californians to get covered.