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East LA event aims to enroll Latinos in Covered California health insurance exchange

Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) is trying to educate as many people as he can about Covered California. Enrollment begins October 1.
September 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
One group key to the success of the Covered California health insurance exchange is the Latino community. Studies show Latinos are twice as likely to die from diabetes and have higher rates of high blood pressure and obesity. It's also the community with one of the highest number of people uninsured.

A visit to an East Los Angeles school stirred up quite a scene and a few childhood memories for Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles). At 7 years old, a bout with pneumonia nearly bankrupted his immigrant parents.

"My family was uninsured, my parents worked four to five jobs a week to make ends meet. They didn't get healthcare through their employers, so we didn't have insurance," said Gomez.

Gomez knows many in his district are living under the same circumstances, so he's trying to educate as many as he can about the Covered California health insurance exchange ahead of the full implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Enrollment begins October 1.

"I know that they will benefit from it and it will relieve that burden that my family felt when one of their children would get sick," said Gomez.

The problem: Many eligible residents, like 28-year-old Patty Lopez, have no idea what it is.

"I'm not really familiar with the Obama new plan," said Lopez.

Lopez's husband has epilepsy, a pre-existing condition that's left him with limited healthcare choices.

"We have to try to somehow find money and try to pay for those medications, and they're so expensive. It's like, 'What do I do? Do I ay for my rent or my husband's medicine?'" said Lopez.

Officials know that in order for the Covered California health insurance exchange to work, people need to enroll. Forty-six percent of those newly eligible to participate are from the Latino community.

"We're teaming up with non-profit groups, other elected officials and even television stations to get that information out," said Gomez.

Barriers include language, a general distrust of government and lack of awareness.

So Gomez helped put together a free healthcare fair where officials can answer questions. The event takes place Saturday at Griffith Middle School in East L.A.

Patty Lopez hopes there she'll find a solution.

"I think there is. We only hope for a better tomorrow," said Lopez.


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