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Groups to educate Californians on national healthcare reform

September 2, 2010 |  1:47 pm

A coalition of California community groups announced a new statewide effort Thursday to educate residents -- particularly Latinos, business owners and youth -- about provisions of the national healthcare overhaul scheduled to take effect later this month.

"This new landmark law will provide Californians more options and real benefits. We want to help people understand these new opportunities and take full advantage of them," said Dr. Robert Ross, president and chief executive of The California Endowment, a private foundation based in Los Angeles that is leading the education campaign.

"With all of the gaping holes in our Los Angeles County safety net, taking optimal advantage of the federal health reforms will go a long way to improving access to healthcare for uninsured and underserved residents in our community," he continued.

Organizers noted that provisions in the new federal law that take effect Sept. 23 require insurers to offer coverage to children with preexisting conditions, prevent insurers from dropping coverage when people become seriously ill, allow those under age 26 to be covered by their parents' insurance and tax credits for insurance companies that offer insurance to employees.

The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness among those most likely to benefit from the new law, including Latino small-business owners. A recent endowment survey showed they were unaware of the provisions, said Daniel Zingale, the endowment's senior vice president.

"People just do not know what's in the law," Zingale said. "If they fail to take advantage of the benefits, they can miss an opportunity to get help for their small business, help for the employees they want to cover."

The $5 million education campaign includes policy research, multilingual advertisements, social media and local outreach such as health fairs organized by healthcare groups in 14 needy communities statewide that belong to the endowment's Building Healthy Communities Initiative.

The communities include Boyle Heights, South Los Angeles, Long Beach, Coachella, Thermal and southern Kern County. Those groups are expected to receive nearly $100 million in grants this year from the endowment to improve healthcare access statewide.

"Making Californians aware of the new law's benefits is critical to the success of our mission -– especially in the 14 Building Healthy Communities locations where too often, people go without basic healthcare," Zingale said

Ross was joined Thursday by Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado at the endowment's Center for Healthy Communities near downtown Los Angeles, where he helped unveil a public service announcement that  was expected to begin airing Thursday on Spanish-language stations statewide.

"In order to be healthy, people need to know about their healthcare benefits and use them," Maldonado said. "I commend The California Endowment and their partner organizations throughout the state for launching this important effort to educate every Californian about their healthcare opportunities."

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske