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Healthy Richmond, creating a culture of coverage

on December 11, 2013

With the December 23 Affordable Care Act deadline approaching, members of Healthy Richmond (a statewide initiative sponsored by The California Endowment to improve the health and safety of Richmond residents) hosted a community fair Saturday to educate people about their options and get them enrolled.

“So many residents have never had access to medical insurance before,” said Healthy Richmond Hub Manager Roxanne Carrillo Garza. “Our goal is to create a culture of coverage, which hasn’t really existed,” Garza said.

Local organizations including the Food Bank, RYSE, and Planned Parenthood set up tables around the Richmond PAL gym. At the center of the room was the “Healthcare 101” station. Six certified educators helped resident figure out if they were eligible for Covered California plans or if they could be insured through Medi-Cal.

“My husband lost his job, so we lost our health insurance,” Yolanda Lopez explained through a translator. Her husband had worked in construction for 24 years. She said that a stroke he had last year led to his being laid off. The health educators told Lopez that her family qualified for Medi-Cal.

“As a nurse, I would constantly see families fall apart because they didn’t have coverage and couldn’t afford the medical bills,” said Robin Thomas, a health insurance agent tabling at the event.  “Now more people can get coverage, qualify for medical or get assistance.”

In a separate part of the building, counselors helped attendees sign-up for Covered California accounts. Those who wanted help with the 60 to 90 minute application process could make an appointment for follow-up or work with a designated counselor in the next room.

“Most people really want to talk to someone in person,” said Carillo Garza.

Organizers also wanted to emphasize healthy living. A zumba instructor led a small group of women through a workout. The Food Bank gave away free bags of fruit. Across the room people took turns at a bike-powered smoothie station.

“I never had a flu shot before, but it’s here,” said Juan Orzoco who was at the fair to find out about insurance and decided to check out a few of the free health screenings and services available.

Next year, Healthy Richmond will have more community events focused on getting residents insured.

“We’re looking to smaller events in different neighborhoods. Our goal is 100 percent coverage in Richmond,” Garza said. “It’s audacious, but that’s what we’re working towards.”

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