Eight years ago, access to affordable health insurance seemed like a pipedream for millions of working families. Insurers refused coverage to those with preexisting conditions, and some were dropped from their coverage when they became ill. Insurers charged higher premiums based on gender. Even worse, health care costs associated with medical emergencies were the leading cause of personal bankruptcy.
Since then, we’ve come a long way. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has put such problems in the past. Over 5 million Californians now have access to high quality and affordable healthcare. In San Francisco, nearly 18 percent of us now have health care because of Obamacare. The same goes for nearly 16 percent of residents in Sonoma County, 15.5 percent in Alameda County, and 14 percent in Santa Clara County.
Ensuring health insurance access is a great way to kick start the New Year. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to benefit from Obamacare. Californians still have until January 31 to enroll in Covered California for this year.
You can do so online (www.coveredca.gov) or go to one of several enrollment fairs in the Bay Area. On January 14, the César E. Chávez Library in Oakland will host an enrollment fair from 1–3 pm with Cantonese and Mandarin speakers. In San Jose, the Bascom Branch Library will host an event on January 18 from 5–6:45 pm with Spanish speakers. Kaiser Permanente will be hosting enrollment fairs on January 14–15, 21–22, 28–29 from 9 am to 6 pm at 20503 Hesperian Blvd in Hayward, with Spanish speakers.
To apply, bring proof of income, identity, and citizenship and know each family member’s birth dates and social security numbers. Counselors will help you find the right health plan and identify financial assistance that may be available.
But remember: a health plan is not just for when you or your family members are sick. It’s also important to use the preventive care that is available to you when you are well so that can help you stay healthy. This is more important than ever now that Obamacare is facing serious threats from the incoming administration.
The president-elect and members of congressional leadership have pledged to repeal Obamacare. Despite the impending uncertainty, we know it took years to implement Obamacare because insurers and the public needed to adapt. Similarly, it will take time for Republicans in Washington to repeal and replace it.
In the meantime, I encourage every person to continue their enrollment during this transition period. While we don’t know what to expect from Washington, we must do what is best for ourselves and loved ones under the law today.
Affordable and accessible healthcare should not be a privilege. We have made enormous progress to expand access and affordability that no one should take for granted. To ensure that you and your loved ones are covered, enroll at www.coveredca.com today.
Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.