By Rhiannon Koh, AsAmNews Staff Writer
Until January 31, Californians can sign up for a name-brand health care plan through Covered California. Though support from the American Rescue Plan has significantly expanded funding, many from the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities still have the highest uninsured rates in the state.
AsAmNews attended a briefing hosted by Covered California. Peter V. Lee, Executive Director of Covered California and Dr. Alice Chen, Chief Medical Officer of Covered California.
At this time, 1.8 million residents have either renewed their coverage or signed up for a new plan. Lee said that this enrollment figure is the largest in the state so far and includes over 330,000 Californians who identify as part of the AANHPI community.
“The American rescue plan dramatically lowered healthcare costs and those lower costs are available for Californians for all of 2022,” Lee said. “It’s lowered the healthcare cost per Californian, such that 2/3 of the people that come to Covered California can get coverage for less than $10 a month.
“Others may pay a little bit more, but it’s because they earn more. What you earn is tied to what your coverage is, and the pandemic has reminded us that everyone needs to think about how the quality of care linked to that, which often is a key driver of health disparity,” he concluded.
Lee said that the AANHPI community has its uninsured rates drop by nearly 60% since 2013. Among ethnic groups in 2020 specifically, there has been a 38% increase from the Filipino community and a 33% in the South Asian Indian community.
Nevertheless, there are still big enough gaps that must be addressed.
“The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research has been tracking the progress we’ve been making and providing health coverage to all Californians for over 2 decades and especially since the Affordable Care Act expanded the Medi-Cal program and established Covered California,” said Dr. Ninez Ponce from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research. “Through the California Health Interview Survey, an annual survey of over 20,000 people that represents the diverse California population, we conduct a survey in English, Spanish, Cantonese Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese, and Tagalog.”
What they found is the necessity for distinctions between Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander groups in order to draw a more conclusive deduction. Even within the Asian American community, Ponce explained, specific ethnic groups have higher uninsured rates than the group’s average.
For example, the uninsured rate for Koreans is at 15%, one of the highest, and in California, the uninsured rate for Filipinos is also higher than the average. Ponce said that in addition to language barriers, employment status and an overall lack of education can make it difficult for residents to understand the importance of what and which health insurance plans to sign up for.
“There are still tens of thousands of Asian Americans across California who are uninsured, but eligible for coverage at very low costs,” Ponce stressed. “I can’t overemphasize the value of health insurance, especially at a time of economic uncertainty and health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The January 31st deadline is coming, and Covered with California is a way for you to gain affordable or no-cost coverage that will protect you and your family.”
Chen closed the briefing by echoing the sentiments of Lee and Ponce. Covered California offers services in over 12 different languages and boasts a strong team of translators ready to assist the community.
To learn more about Covered California, click here.
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