San Mateo County hopes to increase health care enrollment numbers for 2015

With the launch of the 2015 enrollment period for Covered California this month, San Mateo County health officials and community organizations have partnered to help increase awareness and access for thousands of county residents who are eligible for the health care coverage.

More than 3 million people currently have coverage through Covered California, the state's marketplace of health insurers, and the Affordable Care Act. San Mateo County Health System officials said they had the highest health care enrollment numbers of any other government entity in the state for the 2014 period, with more than 50,000 residents enrolling in Medi-Cal or Covered California.

The agency is hoping to continue to pull in big numbers for the 2015 application process, as an estimated 30,000 county residents still need health coverage, according to agency figures.

Thanks to a grant from Covered California, San Mateo County has $300,000 available to devote to outreach and to provide additional in-person assistance via 62 enrollment coordinators at various locations and events throughout the county. Family Resource Centers at elementary schools in San Mateo, East Palo Alto, Pescadero, Pacifica and Daly City are among the sites that will have enrollment assistants available in-person at select times.

Residents who want coverage at the start of 2015 are required to enroll by Dec. 15. That same day is also the deadline for those with coverage who want to modify their existing plans. The final deadline for enrollment in Covered California for 2015 is Feb. 15.

The grant will also provide funds that will go towards promoting a new seamless approach to enrollment, which involves only one application per enrollee. The funding will be used to hire personnel throughout the county who can speak various languages and assist those who need help with their applications.

“Health insurance helps people stay healthy by covering preventive services, such as flu shots, and services to treat more chronic conditions such as diabetes,” Srija Srinivasan, San Mateo County Health System director of strategic operations, said in a statement. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to be in good health and have peace of mind that they are financially covered when they may need it the most.”

Financial assistance is available to those who qualify, and enrollment staff can help people who want to find out whether they qualify and how to apply. The income limitations on eligibility have increased slightly since last year, so Health System officials are encouraging anyone uninsured to inquire about potential assistance.

“Many residents are not aware that there is financial help available for those who have found coverage unaffordable in the past, and that under the Affordable Care Act there are new protections where people cannot be turned away due to past illnesses or ongoing health conditions,” said Robyn Thaw, spokeswoman for the Health System.

Thaw also encouraged residents who are concerned about their immigration status affecting their enrollment options to seek out the local county health enrollment staff to help determine whether or not they still qualify for coverage.

For more information about enrolling for health care, or to find a nearby in-person enrollment location, San Mateo County residents can visit smchealth.org/CoveredCA or call (650) 616-2002 or (800) 223-8383.

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