The clock is ticking down on signing up for health insurance through Covered California that starts January 1, and the state insurance marketplace is scrambling to sign up as many people as possible before then.
In Los Angeles, state officials say they're focusing their outreach efforts on "hot spots," areas with high concentrations of the uninsured. They estimate that there are nearly 600,0000 uninsured people in those areas, which include Maywood, Mid City, Westlake, Boyle Heights, North Hollywood and Panorama City.
The deadline to buy a plan that takes effect Jan. 1 is Dec. 15.
Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee highlighted the hot spots during a gathering Tuesday at a clinic in downtown Los Angeles with Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Lee said about one-third of L.A.'s uninsured qualify for a subsidized plan and the rest qualify for Medi-Cal. Many of the hot spots are lower-income and home to large numbers of Latinos and African-Americans.
"Many of these communities have lived with a culture of coping, they’ve figured out how to make do without insurance," said Lee. "It’s a culture change to move to a culture of coverage."
To better reach the uninsured in the hot spots, Covered California has opened more storefronts, is running a phone campaign and is conducting more media interviews in Spanish and Asian languages. In areas with high numbers of African-Americans, Covered California street teams will be visiting barber shops, hair care salons and small businesses.
The agency is also is sending teams door-to-door; Lee said one-on-one interaction is going to be critical, estimating that about one-third of those who are eligible for subsidized plans don't know assistance is available.
Garcetti said outreach must go out to everyone who is uninsured, from young people who think they don't need coverage to immigrants who may not understand they're eligible.
"You have to find people where they’re at and speak the language that they speak," he said.
Open enrollment runs through January 31st. Plans bought between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15 will take effect on Feb. 1; plans bought from Jan. 16-31 will take effect on March 1.