Still Need Healthcare? Mono County is Here to Help

By: 
Wendilyn Grasseschi
Times Reporter

Although the federal government under the Trump administration has cut the ‘open enrollment’ period to sign up for the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) in half this year, Mono County residents will have until Jan. 31, 2018 to sign up.

That is because the state of California, as blue of a state as the map allows, has kept its open enrollment window open much longer (than the Dec. 15 deadline set by the federal government), under the state’s version of Obamacare, which is called Covered California.

So, as the race heats up in much of the country to sign up for the Affordable Care Act coverage and subsidies before Dec. 15, and where the record number of signups on Nov. 1 repudiated Trump’s claims about the unpopularity of Obamacare, Mono County residents who still need health care insurance have a bit more time.

They also, said Mono County’s Social Services Department Director Kathy Peterson, will have a lot of help if they need it.

“Unlike other states, California has kept our enrollment period long to make sure everyone who wants coverage has the opportunity to apply for it,” she said in a recent email to the Times. “Covered California’s open enrollment period begins on Nov. 1 and ends on Jan. 31, 2018.

“Counties are continuing to partner with Covered California to ensure all Californians can access affordable and comprehensive health care,” she said. “We have a long enrollment period, streamlined applications, and plenty of help to make the enrollment process as easy as possible."

It can be as simple as walking into the county offices and asking for help filling out the forms that can be found at coveredca.com, or calling in to ask questions, she said.

“We’re here to help,” she said. “We can tell residents about health coverage options, help them apply, and determine their eligibility for assistance in covering all or a portion of the cost.”

She said that despite the confusion and inertia that surrounds the state of healthcare in America, California has made a huge investment in providing accessible and affordable healthcare options for its residents, and in making sure that the care is relatively easy to access.

“It is easy to apply for health coverage,” she said. “Covered California and Medi-Cal use the same streamlined application.”

It is, however, important to remember that for Medi-Cal-qualified residents (Medi-Cal qualifications are related to income and other conditions), the enrollment period is year around, not confined to the short window between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31, she said.

“While there is a specific open enrollment period for coverage through Covered California, enrollment in the Medi-Cal program is offered year around,” she said.

That doesn’t mean residents should wait for the last minute to sign up, or that it doesn’t take some time and care to sign up; the challenges of American’s healthcare system rank at the top of American’s worries, according to recent polls, and with the Trump administration openly hostile to Obamacare, residents should begin researching their options before the last minute.

The Mono County Social Services Department is located in Mammoth in the Sierra Center Mall (the old Shogun mall) on the third floor and in Bridgeport and Walker (see below).

Peterson said residents can also learn more by going to the Covered California website or to its Service Center.

Here’s where to get answers to questions locally, online or by phone:

• Mammoth: The Social Services Department is located at 452 Old Mammoth Road. The office can be reached at 760-924-1770. The office is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Walker: The office is located at 107384 U.S. Highway 395. Call 530-495-1262 for more information.

• Bridgeport: The office is located at 37 Emigrant Street. Call 760-932-5600 for more information.

• Online: Go to www.coveredca.com. Residents can also get free help from certified health insurance agents or community enrollment “navigators” which consumers can find by visiting www.coveredca.com/get-help/, according to Peterson.

• Call: Covered California’s Service Center can be reached at 800-300-1506.

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