Many in OC Will Still Be Uninsured Despite New Health Care Law

As many as 370,000 residents of Orange County, about 13 percent, could remain uninsured after the new federal health care law takes full effect starting in 2014, though three-fourths of them would be eligible for some type of coverage under Obamacare, according to a new study by researchers from UCLA and UC Berkeley.

Authorities must aggressively target the remaining uninsured, who could be eligible for expanded Medi-Cal services, subsidies for the health purchasing exchange or unsubsidized access to the exchange, according to the study.

“Some people will remain uninsured because they don’t know how to access services or won’t purchase it if we don’t find ways to do enrollment, outreach and education,” said Isabel Becerra, CEO of the Coalition of Orange County Community Clinics, which provides safety net care.

Becerra, who spoke at UC Irvine about the new health care law Saturday, said it’s common to assume that when the law takes full effect, only undocumented residents will be left uncovered by Obamacare.

In fact, three-fourths of the remaining uninsured will be citizens or legal residents who refuse to opt for coverage or, barring aggressive recruitment, won't understand how to get it. This lack of understanding will mainly be due to limited English proficiency, the report stated.

The percentage of insured under Obamacare “is a significant increase, but there will still be a group of people who fall out,” said Ken Daniels, one of the study’s authors and chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center. “There’s still a need for safety net coverage.”

The large majority — 72 percent — of the remaining uninsured will not be subject to a tax penalty under the coverage mandate because their income is so low.


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