‘Obamacare’ could double number of people eligible for Medi-Cal in county


The Affordable Health Care Act goes into full effect in January 2014 and that means big changes in Mono County

When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act last year, it put the county’s counties and states on notice.

Play, or figure out another way to cover the uninsured.

The State of California decided to play—one of the first and largest states to wholeheartedly embrace “Obamacare.”

But what will that mean for residents? What will it mean for Mono County, which provides the services considered to be the backbone of the county’s safety net: social, behavioral and public health services?

At its most elemental, the changes mean there will be many more people added to the safety net.

 One case in point: right now, Mono County has 1,205 people—children and adults—enrolled in the state’s health insurance for very low income families—Medi-Cal.

When certain Obamacare provisions kicks in next January, that number could double.

 “We do not have the exact numbers, and I want to emphasize that fact, but researchers from UCLA and UC Berkeley, along with the California Welfare Director’s Association, have compiled the data and it looks like Mono County could have anywhere from between 800 to 1,200 new enrollees in Medi-Cal,” said the county director of social services, Kathy Peterson.

Mono County has a population of about 14,000 people. When somewhere between 2,000 and 2,400 of them are enrolled in Medi-Cal, that equates to 14 to 17 percent of the population. And the county won’t just be helping potential Medi-Cal clients.

It will also help guide residents who might qualify for subsidized health insurance in the right direction.

It’s a daunting task for the small departments to take on, but Peterson said her agency, along with behavioral health (formerly mental health) and the public health department are not only getting ready, they are excited about the new options.

“The philosophy behind this expansion in the state is ‘there are no closed doors, there is no wrong door.’ You will get helped,” said Peterson.

“People will be able to find out if they are eligible for Medi-Cal or for subsidized health insurance by coming in our doors to our offices. They can get help going online. They can get help picking up the phone and calling us, or the state. And, equally importantly, they won’t get shunted from one place to another. They will get helped where they are.”

Peterson told the Mono County Board of Supervisors Tuesday she and the other department heads might need some help from the supervisors to get ready for the influx of new people.

“We might need to take another look at how our offices are laid out, our facilities, how we are organized here,” she said.

The Affordable Care Act provisions that allow access to subsidized health insurance depending on income go into effect in January 2014. Residents who make between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (families of four making between $29,000 and $88,000), as well as businesses with fewer than 50 employees may qualify, according to state data.

Residents who are interested can begin the process of seeing if they quality by going to the “Covered California” website at www.coveredca.com.