LA Times: Medi-Cal seen as relief for some, confusing burden for others

Many Californians now qualify for Medi-Cal under Obamacare, but for some embarrassment and complex sign-ups overshadow the aid.

Marty Gross, right, and son ElliotMarty Gross, right, and his son Elliot, 16, at their home in Mar Vista. Marty Gross has Kaiser insurance through Covered California but his son qualifies for Medi-Cal. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times /January 29, 2014)
By Eryn BrownBusiness owner Lori Golden wasn’t looking for charity.

But the 62-year-old Northridge resident said that’s what it felt like when she tried to buy an Obamacare health insurance policy through the Covered California exchange — and instead learned that her income was so low it qualified her to receive benefits through California’s healthcare program for the poor.

“I’m upset. I sort of feel like I’m being forced to go into Medi-Cal,” Golden said.

Supporters of national healthcare reform tout the expansion of Medicaid — called Medi-Cal in California — as one of the great successes of the Affordable Care Act.

For many needy people, learning they’re eligible for the usually free program has been a tremendous relief — assurance that, after decades of forgoing care or worrying about medical expenses, they’ll now be able to afford medications, see a doctor or seek emergency care without worrying about ending up broke.

But the news isn’t wholly welcome for others, who find the complexities of signing up with Medi-Cal bewildering and onerous. And some, like Golden, who don’t consider themselves low-income and don’t know how Medi-Cal works, also fret over being placed on state healthcare rolls — “on the dole” — and would rather just pay for insurance.

“To me, Medi-Cal sounds like something that’s free — and I’m not looking to get a government handout,” she said. “That embarrasses me.”

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-new-medi-cal-patients-20140203,0,6224799.story#ixzz2sfn62AqO

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