(CBM) – The California Endowment is investing $2 million in the Golden State’s Black communities.

The private Los Angeles-based organization that focuses on health and health equity announced the donation at an event organized to increase healthcare awareness and insurance registration among African Americans across the state.

Endowment President and CEO, Dr. Robert K. Ross said on Jan. 31 the investment from the health foundation solidifies its commitment to increase African-American enrollment in Medi-Cal and “Obamacare.”

“We are serious about making certain that every Californian is covered, in particular, the African-American community,” says the former Covered California board member. “We want 100 percent coverage.”

Ross made the announcement about the outreach dollars at the non-profit group’s Organizing for Action “Enroll at the Bowl; Morning ‘til Midnight”, event held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. The day-long outing was geared toward enrolling as many eligible persons as possible for reduced-cost health insurance through Obama-care, officially known as the Affordable Care Act, or Medi-Cal, the state’s safety-net insurance program.

The monies will benefit an initiative to include targeted paid media efforts coordinated through California Black Media, and efforts ran by the California Black Health Network to complete outreach and education through health fairs, church rallies, and town halls.

Ross said California has been a leader in healthcare enrollment.

“But we all have more work to do to ensure everyone has access to quality, affordable healthcare,” says Ross.

According to Covered California numbers from last October, only 2.4 percent, of the approximately 1.3 million Obama-care enrollees since January 2014, are African-American.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said health insurance enrollment in the Black community is very important. He said the signing of the Affordable Care Act by U.S. President Barack Obama is one of the most important steps in advancing social justice.

“I have been thrilled to see how many of the African-American churches, political groups, community organizations are saying, ‘We need to step up. The door is open. Let’s get everyone in our community through that door,’” says Lee. “We’ve had huge numbers of African Americans enroll in Covered California and Medi-Cal. We need to celebrate the fact that in African-American communities there are tens of thousands who have insurance.”

Sharing the Basics of Insurance Coverage Is Key

Covered California’s top official said members of the Black community who have health insurance need to tell their friends and neighbors that health coverage is obtainable. He said fears about the cost of Obama-care is the main reason people in the Black community do not register for health insurance.

“Nine of the ten people who sign up for Covered California get huge financial help,” he said. “People in Medi-Cal aren’t paying anything. Affordability is the number one barrier. That means our number one tool is education.”

The last day of January was the final day of the three-month, open enrollment period for individuals and families without health insurance to sign up for Obama-care. The next enrollment period begins in November.

Eligible Californians can enroll in the reduced cost Medi-Cal program year round.

Before lunchtime at the “Enroll at the Bowl” event, those without healthcare were sent to one of the Rose Bowl’s executive suites. There, they registered for insurance with the help of volunteers, while munching on breakfast snacks and drinking coffee and orange juice.

Pasadena City Councilman Tyron Hampton, civil rights lawyer Connie Rice, and U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu were on-hand greeting health care enrollees at the event.

Hampton presented Lee with a Certificate of Appreciation from the City of Pasadena praising the work Covered California has done in the three years Obama-care has been law.

Lee said millions of Californians have coverage thanks to Covered California, but more work is needed.

“We need Covered California to be woven into the fabric of the African-American community,” says Lee. “That is what we are trying to do.”

 Healthcare Coverage Is Vital in Black Communities

Chu, the representative for California’s 27th district, said health insurance outreach to the Black community is critical. She said non-profit groups and agencies that help people enroll for healthcare are important because they dissuade myths, such as, enrollment being difficult.

The Democratic congresswoman said she is angry and outraged by Republicans on the campaign trail and the nation’s capital continuously saying they want to abolish Obama-care.

“This law has helped so many people who would otherwise have nowhere else to turn,” she said. “To have these votes to disband Obama-care – even after the U.S. Supreme Court approved it – is ridiculous and un-American.”

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