Despite uncertainty, LA activists continue to recruit for Obamacare

South LA residents sign in to attend the South LA Power Festival, an event organized around providing information on health care coverage.
South LA residents sign in to attend the South LA Power Festival, an event organized around providing information on health care coverage. KPCC/Sanden Totten

In Washington, as Congress wrestles with how to keep the government funded, House Republicans are pushing to delay mandatory health insurance — the Affordable Care Act — by one year.

It's the GOP's latest attempt to delay the rollout of "Obamacare," set to take place October 1.

Meanwhile, community organizers on the ground in Southern California are pushing forward with efforts to sign up as many people as they can for health care coverage.

FAQ: How Obamacare will affect you

People such as Gregory Stafford, who came out Saturday to the 2nd Annual South LA Power Festival, an event organized by the non-profit group Community Coalitions.

Standing under a large white tent, Stafford, who works helping the unemployed find jobs, asked workers from a nearby health center questions about coverage. He has been uninsured for a year due to financial reasons.

"It’s awesome," Stafford said. "I think this community fair is just right on point."

South L.A., a community made up largely of African Americans and Latinos, has the highest rate of uninsured in Los Angeles County. Nearly 40% of those who live there have no coverage.

Jung Hee Choi helped organize the festival that was a mix of healthcare providers, farmers market stands, community groups and live music. She said the hardest part of getting people to sign up for health care coverage is understanding the rules, which can be complicated.

“It’s not easy to figure out,” Choi laughed. “People just don’t know where to start.”

To help with that, the festival had fliers, multilingual volunteers and even a smart phone app created by a group catering to 18-34 year olds called Young Invincibles. The app has a glossary of terms and will eventually feature a Yelp-like system that lets users rate different health care providers, said David Levitus, a deputy director with the organization.

"There’s no one silver bullet that’s going to do it,” he said, referring to the different approaches to informing people of their options. 

Still, Levitus and others will be watching what happens in Washington as GOP-led efforts to delay and defund Obama care continue. He's optimistic, though, for the Affordable Care Act's future: "While there may be hiccups in the short term, we are confident that this program is moving forward."

The crowd of several dozen South L.A. residents attending the festival to get insurance are counting on that happening.


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