By Melissa Murphy
Vacaville resident Nicole Brownell, 30, can remember a time when needing to see a doctor meant heading to an urgent-care center.
Without insurance, she would wait until she couldn’t wait any longer and then deal with whichever doctor or nurse practitioner she got.
“When I didn’t have (insurance), I didn’t get to pick who I saw, it was just the luck of the draw,” she said. “Now I can call and get in, when I had to wait before.”
The reason for the change in her life makes headlines across the nation daily: the Affordable Care Act.
The deadline for signing up for insurance under the act is approaching.
That’s why the Solano Coalition for Better Health and other organizations are encouraging those without health insurance, like Brownell, to sign up for Covered California, the state’s arm of the federal program.
Brownell, 30, is one of many who have taken advantage of the service provided by Solano Coalition.
“It was really easy,” she said, adding that she met a representative at the library and showed them a Pacific Gas & Electric bill, her Social Security card and a pay stub. “I just answered some questions and they did the work for me.”
She added that her roommate had a similar experience signing up for health insurance through Covered California.
Brownell said she signed up for the insurance because it’s now required under the Affordable Care Act and because she doesn’t work enough hours at her job for the company to pay a portion of the insurance. Now, she pays $90 per month for health coverage through Kaiser Permanente.
Brownell, who has worked for Outback Steakhouse for eight years, earns a steady income, but the hours don’t add up.
“You have to work 32 to 35 hours regularly,” she said, in order to meet the requirements for health coverage. “That’s hard to do when the restaurant doesn’t open until 4 p.m.”
She’s had insurance in the past, but she’s also lived without it for a time.
While Brownell is hesitant to talk about the government’s involvement in requiring health-care coverage, she’s relieved to have insurance now.
“There is an ease in knowing that I have it, just in case something happens,” she said.
California, according to Solano Coalition for Better Health, is leading the way in implementing the new law by expanding health-care access with no-cost and low-cost health insurance through Medi-Cal and Covered California and shifting the health-care system toward prevention, to help people stay healthy.
Given that the March 31 deadline to sign up for insurance is looming, the Solano Coalition is urging people to sign up now. After the deadline, the uninsured will not have another chance until open enrollment in October.
Joanie Erickson, executive director of Solano Coalition for Better Health, said the organization is trying to get the word out about the deadline and providing help for free.
Covered California offers free preventive services and also will help find the right plan for families. Additionally, financial help is available for those who qualify.
For information on Covered California and signing up for health insurance, visit www.solanocoalition.org. To make an appointment for assistance, call 863-4444.