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Monday, December 22, 2014

Groups aid ACA signups

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By William Aranda / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Lezlie Alvarado, Oriandi Delarosa and Juan Gonzales (left to right) talk with one another during the Affordable Care Act Community Event at El Centro de la Raza on Thursday afternoon. El Centro de la Raza, Footprints Ministry, Inc., Lobos Unidos, Centro Sávila and other organizations hosted a workshop Thursday to help students and staff understand the Affordable Care Act and to register for healthcare plans.

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Organizations on campus are working to help the University community navigate the new health care system.

El Centro de la Raza, Footprints Ministry, Inc., Lobos Unidos, Centro Sávila and other organizations hosted a workshop Thursday to help the students and staff understand the Affordable Care Act and register for healthcare plans.

The workshop benefited UNM by helping students with a lower income register for health care, said Theresa Gonzales, community program specialist for El Centro de la Raza.

“A lot of students, since they’re full-time students, their income isn’t very high,” she said. “Some of them just go to school full time, so it would really benefit them to apply for Medicaid… A lot of students couldn’t have it at the time, and now, they’ll be able to access it.”

According to the Medicaid website, the new Medicaid minimum eligibility level under the Affordable Care Act is “133 percent of the federal poverty level… for nearly all Americans under age 65.”
Gonzales said the workshop was also intended to educate people in general about the Affordable Care Act. She said educators at the workshop helped participants understand their options so they could register for health insurance.

“We saw a lot of folks from (Physical Plant Department) and other contractors who came by, and they had no idea how to enroll,” she said. “A lot of them didn’t have health insurance. One man in particular said, ‘I was just going to pay the penalty because I can’t afford health insurance.’”

Those not enrolled in health care coverage by March 31 will be charged a penalty, according to Healthcare.gov. According to the website, open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace also closes on that date and will not reopen until November.

Staff from Centro Sávila, a local treatment organization, were also present to inform people and help them enroll under the Affordable Care Act.

According to the Centro Sávila website, the center helps people recover from emotional and psychological distress.

Edith Garcia, a member of Centro Sávila, said she and other individuals from the treatment center exchanged contact information with people in order to help them enroll in health insurance at a scheduled time.

“We provided our contact information, and we asked them to fill out a ‘pledge to enroll’ card, which is them pledging that they’re interested in enrolling in healthcare,” she said. “So we get their contact information, call them, set up a time that’s more convenient for them.”

Gonzales said 84 people signed in to get information and 32 pledged to sign up for health care plans.

Other organizations also participated in helping students understand the act.

Johny Herrera, a student mentor for Lobos Unidos, said the mentors provided bilingual support for students at the workshop. He said that Lobos Unidos is a new mentoring group under El Centro intended to help increase graduation rates, especially for students from rural areas of New Mexico.

“The Lobos Unidos mentors were there to help support our students at El Centro de la Raza,” he said. “They were helping students get more information in English or Spanish. We were letting them know about the deadline of March 31 and how to enroll in the Affordable Care Act.”

Gonzales said there may be another similar health care event in February that may include more community organizations.

“We would want to partner with Student Health and Counseling and our community partners to make it more of a larger event where we can capture a wider campus community,” she said.

Individuals who missed the latest workshop can still get help enrolling before the deadline, Garcia said.

Students can also contact SHAC to get in touch with health care navigators.

For more information about enrollment programs with the Affordable Care Act, visit bewell.nm