Sacramento Business Journal by Kathy Robertson –
The board at Covered California got an earful Thursday from two African-American legislators unhappy with what they say was a lack of outreach to the African-American community during the first open enrollment for the new state health benefit exchange.
Covered California boosted outreach to Latinos but the “lack of commitment” to African-Americans means this population could owe more than $8 million in penalties to the IRS for failure to buy insurance, Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, a Democrat from San Bernardino, said at the board’s regular monthly meeting in Sacramento.
Assemblyman Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena who chairs the California Black Caucus, said the group wants to work with Covered California on the issue, but “Covered California must be committed to outreach to this community.”
Board members listened while executive director Peter Lee responded that “we do take the concerns very seriously.”
The new state health benefit exchange signed up 1.4 million people for coverage in its first open enrollment, held Oct. 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014. Some consumers got an extra two weeks if they tried to sign up but couldn’t get through during a deluge of calls in the final days of the enrollment period.
A total of 30,774 black Californians enrolled, 2.2 percent of the total. The target population is smaller than other groups, Brown said in a phone interview, “but some of the images they put out didn’t speak to this community.”
The Black Caucus worked with Covered California for months on boosting outreach, Brown said.
“We have trusted people who have reached the African-American community in California for years,” she added. That list of people was given to Covered California staff but nobody on it was contacted, she said.