India West: SAN Soon to Enroll Immigrants in Covered California – Oct 17, 2013

Filed under Media and Photos, SAN in the News

By Sunita Sohrabji, Staff Reporter (India West)
Oct 17, 2013


Manju Kulkarni, executive director of the South Asian Network, which is helping immigrants enroll in health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act. (SAN photo)

United States

As millions of Americans prepare to enroll in health insurance coverage – many for the first time – under the Affordable Care Act, many new immigrants and those with language issues are befuddled about their options under the new legislation.

States began rolling out their new health care exchanges Oct. 1. Following a six-month period – until Mar. 31, 2014 – all U.S. citizens and lawfully-permanent residents are now required to carry adequate health insurance or pay a fine. Importantly, individuals are now mandated to carry health insurance for themselves if their company of less than 50 full-time employees does not provide coverage. Such a measure has a large impact on immigrants, who overwhelmingly tend to be employees of smaller companies.

Undocumented people will not be able to participate in the ACA. The U.S. is currently home to 540,000 undocumented South Asians, and 11 million undocumented people of all nationalities.

“There is a big information gap that needs to be filled,” noted Mark diCamillo, director of the Field Poll, at a Sept. 4 health care briefing. DiCamillo added that information was most lacking in the low-income and ethnic communities. Two-thirds of Asian Americans polled said they needed more information about ACA and 82 percent of non-English speakers had little information about the massive health reform initiative, according to the Field Poll.

Most Californians, however, do support the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – concluded diCamillo.

The South Asian Network, in Southern California, is currently the only agency in the state to be certified to provide information about enrolling in the state’s health care exchange, known as Covered California, to the state’s large population of South Asian immigrants. SAN provides health care coverage information in Hindi, Urdu, Bangla, Punjabi and Gujarati.

“Sometimes, all they know how to tell is ‘Obamacare,” and we get them over to the right person,” Manju Kulkarni, executive director of the South Asian Network, told India-West, adding that a large portion of SAN’s clients are new immigrants and immigrants with limited language skills.

“The focus of SAN’s work is the low-income community, who may not have had a formal education. It may be difficult for them to understand health insurance,” the Indian American said.

SAN has been providing information about the Affordable Care Act to South Asian Americans since July and will soon begin to enroll new consumers in the ACA, shortly after its staff member take their exams. All certified counselors must receive a number of hours of training and pass 80 percent of the test before receiving certification, Kulkarni explained.

California’s health exchange is known as Covered California. Covered California will allow consumers who do not have health insurance to shop between plans offering different levels of coverage. Covered California also expands its Medical program to allow those with incomes of less than $15,000 per year to qualify for coverage. Consumers with incomes of $16,000-$45,000 can qualify for federally-subsidized health care if their employer does not provide it.

Confusingly, however, lawful permanent residents with less than $15,000 will not qualify for MediCal in California or Medicaid programs throughout the country within five years of entering the country. New immigrants of less than five years’ residence with $16,000-$45,000 incomes will qualify for subsidized care, even though such coverage is also federally subsidized.

Kulkarni – who helped draft a 110-page analysis of the ACA in 2010 – acknowledged the inconsistencies in policy. “It is a rather behemoth path,” she told India-West. “But it is absolutely needed by our society and our citizens.”

Kulkarni also acknowledged the “demagoguery” surrounding the national dialogue on the new legislation, but said, “As we see it implemented, people will be very happy with it.”

SAN is also directing those that do not qualify for ACA coverage to use community health clinics and health fairs. The undocumented will still be able to use emergency room services and trauma centers, and special provisions will be made for undocumented women who are pregnant, she said.


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