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Covered California Calls on African Americans to Sign Up for Health Insurance, Get Vaccine

Covered California officials teamed up with African American health leaders Tuesday to call on Black Californians to get health insurance as well as the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes widely available to the public next year.

“The pandemic is hitting communities of color the hardest,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange.

Lee cited a Pew Research survey which found that 70% of Black Americans know someone who’s either died or been hospitalized due to COVID-19.  That’s compared to 60% percent of Latinos and about 50% of whites.

The same survey found that only 40% of Black Americans are  to take the vaccine, the lowest percentage of any group. Eighty percent of Asians and 60% of both Latinos and whites said they would get vaccinated. 

Lee was joined by several African American health leaders, including Dr. Adrian James, chief medical officer at the West Oakland Health Council.

James says the high percentage of African Americans apparently unwilling to take the vaccine is cause for concern because African Americans are disproportionately dying from the virus.

“African Americans are getting sicker from this disease,” he said. “Part of it is because they have underlying health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma, etc.”

James noted that infection numbers in Oakland alone have gone up dramatically. As of Tuesday, the city had logged almost 15,000 coronavirus cases.

Covered California’s open enrollment ends on Dec. 30, for coverage that starts Jan. 1. While Lee says the numbers for people signing up have been strong since late last year and into the pandemic, he says roughly 1.2 million Californians eligible for financial assistance  through the program remain uninsured, including 67,000 African Americans.

—Julie Chang

Copyright 2020 KQED