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Why Aren’t More African-Americans Signing Up for Covered California or Medi-Cal Benefits

110713-race-insurance-prevention-storyBy Olu Alemoru, California Black Media 

As the calendar speeds toward the March 31 deadline for securing benefits through the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, African-American enrollment in California’s healthcare exchange is falling far short of expectations.

Data recently released by Covered California suggests that only about 50 percent of eligible African-Americans have signed up. Uninsured consumers now have less than a month to enroll before they are subject to penalties – $95 per adult or 1 percent of your annual income, whichever is greater – and faced with an even more daunting challenge: a longer period of time among the ranks of those without healthcare coverage.

It is perhaps all the more worrying considering that the Medi-Cal program, which has been covering Californians who couldn’t afford health insurance since 1966, has been greatly expanded under Obamacare, making up to two million more people are eligible.  This is a huge missed opportunity for the black community.

As of January 1, single adults ages 19-64, are eligible for Medi-Cal based on a simplified eligibility formula: your annual income must be 138 percent or less of the federal poverty level. In 2013, that meant eligibility for individuals earning up to $15,856.

According to information provided by Covered California and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), the Affordable Care Act ensures that all Medi-Cal plans offer a comprehensive package of essential health benefits. These include ambulatory patient and emergency services, hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance abuse, prescription drugs and laboratory services.

As of 2014, the array of mental health and substance abuse services have expanded to include individual and group mental health evaluation and treatment, outpatient drug monitoring therapy, psychiatric consultation and intensive residential and outpatient treatment services.
Dental care, vision and speech therapy services are generally only available to children and youth under 21, but dental services will be available to all adults starting this May.

There are three ways to enroll for Covered California and Medi-Cal health insurance plans: online at www.CoveredCA.com , over the phone  calling 800- 300-1506 and in-person with assistance from a Certified Enrollment Counselor.

To provide a real-world example of how easy it can be to enroll into Medi-Cal, this reporter — who, like many in the media business, recently lost health benefits after being forced to transition from staff to freelance work — underwent the eligibility and enrollment process with help from St. John’s Well Child & Family Center in historically black South Los Angeles.

The process requires a birth or citizenship certificate, Social Security card (if you have one), proof of income and proof of county residency. If everything checks out, eligibility is immediately confirmed. Finalizing the paperwork may take up to 45 days, and enrollees can change to a Covered California plan if income and employment status changes within that time. To start the Medi-Cal enrollment process, those who believe they may be eligible can go to the DHCS website to start the application process.

Meanwhile, those working to get more African-Americans enrolled are holding out hope that black consumers will heed the calls for action targeted at their communities and enroll in a plan.

“The enrollment numbers for African-Americans are not sufficient. It’s basically half of what it should be,” said Daniel Zingale, Senior Vice President of The California Endowment. “I think the outreach is getting better, but I think the real problem is the intake process. It’s hard to get through on the phone lines, the website and hardest of all to get an in-person enroller.

It’s a tough job because Covered California had to create all new systems, hire staff to the answer the phones and license the enrollers. It’s a big undertaking, but I think they’re making progress.”

 

Girls Talk II Spring Conference: “Empowering 2 Excel”

Gwendolyn Rodgers, President/CEO - YWE Foundation

Gwendolyn Rodgers, President/CEO – YWE Foundation

“Imagine what can happen in the life of a young woman when she is empowered to succeed.”

Young Women’s Empowerment Foundation and  Assemblymember Cheryl Brown invite you to the FREE “Girl Talk II Spring Conference” on Saturday, March, 15 from 9 a.m.  to 2 p.m. at San Bernardino Valley College,  701 South Mt. Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino. 

Young ladies, let’s talk about life! Have you ever needed someone to sit down and talk to you about things that are troubling you? Are you confused about why you are feeling so hurt and letdown? Did you think you found your “Prince Charming,” but he turned out to be less than perfect? Before you can give of yourself to someone, you must first get to know the real you.  You may ask, “How do I get to know the real me?”  “Girl Talk” will open the door to many of the answers you are looking for.

The purpose of “Girl Talk” is to communicate and address everyday issues with teen girls and encourage each to BE Smart! BE Safe! BE Responsible! Growing up with the influence of peer pressure, staying positive is not always easy. However, part of Young Women’s Empowerment mission is to show girls, that while at times it may be hard, it’s not impossible. The half-day Saturday event is aimed at empowering young women by providing pathways to build positive self-esteem, and enhance independent thinking through dynamic, energetic and fun workshops, education, and just plain ole “Girl Talk.”

The “Girl Talk” Conference is rooted in love and sisterhood. A love for our younger sisters and a desire to share with them the legacy of sisterhood that comes from establishing and maintaining lasting relationships with women young and old. The initial vision of “Girl Talk” derived from seeing the decline of the young ladies of our community first hand and the desire to begin an educational process that could help them positively transforms their beings.

Young ladies, ages 12-21, you are invite to experience a POSITIVE, STIMULATING, EDUCATIONAL, and SOCIAL experience. Join us!

Philanthropic Leader Judy Belk Appointed First African American Woman President and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation

Judy Belk

Judy Belk

Committed to Increasing Philanthropic Resources for People of Color, TCWF Makes History By Naming Three Distinguished African Americans Into Leadership Roles

Woodland Hills, CA – Judy Belk will lead The California Wellness Foundation as its next president and CEO, effective April 7, 2014, announced Barbara C. Staggers, M.D., M.P.H., chair of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. Belk is currently senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a position she has held since 2002.

“Judy has stellar operational and strategic leadership expertise in philanthropy and a strong sense of valuing the voices of grantees,” Staggers said. “This coupled with her track record in myriad philanthropic efforts that support underserved communities makes her a strong match for The California Wellness Foundation.”

A seasoned leader with more than 25 years of senior management experience in the philanthropic, government, nonprofit and corporate sectors, Belk played a pivotal role in building Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) into one of the nation’s largest independent nonprofit advisory firms, which currently advises on more than $300 million annually in more than 30 countries.

She launched the firm’s West Coast and Midwest operations and helped position RPA as a global “thought leader” in promoting effective strategic philanthropy, impact investing, and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives. Previously, Belk served as vice president of global public affairs at Levi Strauss & Co., reporting directly to the chairman and CEO, with responsibilities for both the company’s and foundation’s leadership in the global fight against AIDS, as well as their economic development, environmental and antiracism initiatives.

“I am proud to join the Foundation and support its mission to promote a healthier California,” Belk said. “Since its founding, TCWF has played a historic role in courageously funding in public health areas that had drawn little or no philanthropic attention.”

Belk said that, in the process, the Foundation has expanded the definition of health and wellness for all Californians, particularly underserved, diverse communities.

“I’m looking forward to working with TCWF’s impressive Board, its talented staff and committed community partners across the state in leveraging the Foundation’s resources and voice in bringing about meaningful health changes,” she said.

Eugene Washington, M.D., vice chair of TCWF’s Board, believes Belk’s vast philanthropic expertise will add valuable insight to the Foundation’s current and future grantmaking programs, especially as they relate to health coverage.

“With the expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, it is an important time in California and the nation,” Washington said. “I look forward to working with Judy on this vital issue and others that are affecting the health of the people of California.”

The Foundation is recognized nationally for its strategic core operating support that builds and sustains the capacity of health and human-service nonprofit organizations, and for its public policy grantmaking. TCWF has also earned national recognition for funding public education and policy outreach, including groundbreaking, multilingual campaigns in violence prevention, teenage pregnancy prevention and promoting diversity in the health professions.

Belk will bring to the Foundation a strong track record of leadership spanning the nonprofit, government and corporate sectors. At Levi Strauss & Co., she led a global team in pioneering work on AIDS education and prevention, and women’s economic development, and launched Project Change, a national antiracism initiative, which was recognized by President Bill Clinton with the first Ron Brown Award for Corporate Leadership in 1998. She also developed and led the company’s philanthropic efforts in postapartheid South Africa.

Throughout her career, Belk has been a strong advocate in promoting diversity, inclusion and equity both within and outside of the philanthropic sector. She has been a passionate voice in raising awareness of the needs of women and girls, as well as communities of color. She has been actively involved in the D5 Initiative, a national coalition of philanthropic leaders committed to increasing philanthropic resources for women, for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, and people of color.

“The Foundation is at a key crossroads in its history,” said Cole Wilbur, TCWF’s interim president and CEO. “As we sunset the Responsive Grantmaking Program, the Foundation welcomes Judy, an enterprising leader with deep knowledge in philanthropy, to lead the next era of our grantmaking.”

Belk joins a distinguished roster of executives who have led the Foundation since it was founded more than two decades ago.

Belk is a frequent writer and speaker on organizational ethics, race and social change, and her work has been recognized with several state and national awards. Her pieces have aired on National Public Radio and appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post.

She currently serves on the boards of the Surdna Foundation, a national New York-based family foundation, and the Marlborough School, a Los Angeles-based, independent school for girls. Past board service includes Southern California Grantmakers, Northern California Grantmakers, National Center on Family Philanthropy, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, and the Independent Sector.

Belk received her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and her master’s degree in public administration from California State University, East Bay, where she was recognized as the 1999 Distinguished Alumnus of the Year.

Belk has lived and worked in California for her entire professional career. A current resident of Los Angeles, she is a native of Alexandria, Virginia, where she was recently inducted into the Alexandria African American Hall of Fame. She is married to Roger Peeks, M.D., who currently serves as medical director of Valley Community Clinic in North Hollywood. They have two young adult children.

Assisting the Foundation’s Board of Directors in the search for the next president and CEO was Isaacson, Miller, an executive search firm with offices in San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C.

The California Wellness Foundation is a private independent foundation created in 1992 with a mission to improve the health of the people of California by making grants for health promotion, wellness education and disease prevention.

One of the largest health grantmaking organizations in California, TCWF was established in 1992 as part of the conversion of Health Net from not-for-profit to for-profit status. It is completely separate from Health Net and operates as a private independent foundation. The Foundation headquarters are located in Woodland Hills with a small branch office in San Francisco. Since its founding, TCWF has awarded 7,338 grants totaling more than $890 million.