Cover Arizona, a coalition of over 900 community and statewide organizations, is holding a series of informational events to encourage all Arizonans to enroll in the health insurance marketplace, which opened November 1. The group’s goal is to get the entire state insured.
Cover Arizona and its members have been holding events to educate the public, especially “hard-to-reach” populations, on health care rights and options, said David Aguirre, chair of communications. He said these populations include minorities, the LGBT community, and young adults, especially college students.
“[Young adults] feel like they’re young, strong, and they’re not going to get sick, so therefore they don’t need health insurance,” said Aguirre. “It’s a little hard to get them to really focus on getting health insurance because they are healthy.”
The group sets up tables at locations targeting these populations, including Phoenix College recently, in hopes of getting people interested in enrolling in the marketplace. It will continue to hold events until the open enrollment period ends on January 31.
Diane Brown, executive director of Cover Arizona member Arizona Public Interest Research Group, said that through tabling, social media, and class announcements, thousands of Phoenix College students and members of the community will know how to enroll in a health insurance plan by the end of the week.
“Young adults have historically been the most uninsured Arizonans,” said Brown. “The Arizona PIRG Education Fund has been working with community colleges across the state to help young adults know their health insurance options and rights.”
She said the group is trying to raise the number of insured young adults by providing literature on rights and plan options, as well as a checklist of documents needed for an individual to enroll, such as a social security card and proof of citizenship.
She said the group can assist people in making appointments with a certified enrollment assister, a person who has applied for certification through the Arizona Department of Insurance and has been trained to find the best plan for a family or individual’s financial and medical needs. These aides, she said, mostly come from local nonprofits and do not receive any financial benefits for enrolling individuals in a particular plan.
Brown said people making less than $16,000 per year can qualify for Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s Medicaid program, and that those making between $16,000 and $40,000 per year can qualify for financial assistance. Last year, she said, over 75 percent of Arizonans received financial assistance to pay for health coverage.
Stephen Vega, student and president of the college’s Veterans Club, said he and other clubs in the school were invited to a Cover Arizona seminar about the public’s lack of knowledge concerning the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System.
An army veteran himself, he became interested in the issue because of his work with veterans, especially those who are students, and he joined education efforts by helping to table and speak to classes. He said there have been about 30 class presentations this week.
“Now that health care is free and accessible to people [who qualify] out there, we are trying to advocate and make them aware that they should go and get it,” said Vega. “People think of [health care] as a privilege, but it’s not – it’s a basic need.”