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California Hospitals May Help People Get Health Insurance

— California hospitals could play a key role in helping to enroll people in health insurance plans.

Walk into a hospital, walk out with health insurance. That could happen beginning in October.

Photo by Heather Rousseau

Families soon will be able to sign up for new health insurance options through the Affordable Care Act. In Washington, D.C., Dr. Cheryl Focht of Mary's Center performs a checkup of Jayson Gonzalez, 16, while his mother, Elizabeth Lopez, looks on.

Beginning in October, hospitals will have a special tool at their disposal: a web portal that's linked to Covered California, the online exchange where people will be able to shop for health plans and apply for federal subsidies.

Hospitals that want to help people with the process will need to get special training from the state.

Jan Emerson Shea, vice president of external affairs for the California Hospital Association, said she believes hospitals should help enroll the uninsured. She said, after all, they're treating people anyway.

"If we can get these people covered, it will be better for the patient and their health, and it will also mean that the hospitals will be now reimbursed for the care that they provide, as opposed to providing free care to an uninsured person," Emerson Shea said.

She said hospitals are often the first points of contact the uninsured have with the healthcare system.

About one in five California residents is uninsured.

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