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The unpredictability of events and the need to plan for them was the message brought by Covered California to the Central Coast Saturday, during a stop at Hancock College.

The stop was one of 23 in 16 cities across the state, including Santa Maria, made during an iconic bus tour which began Nov. 7 to promote enrollment in health insurance and show how "life can change in an instant." 

Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, has been overseeing all aspects of the largest state-run individual marketplace in the nation since its inception in 2011. Under his leadership, Covered California has created a competitive marketplace that has held premium increases in check, expanded coverage, given consumers tools to make better choices and created a platform to address healthcare costs and quality, he said.

"We're here to get the word out to remind the public that open enrollment period goes through Jan. 15, but if you sign up by Dec. 15, you can start getting coverage on Jan. 1," said Lee. 

"This is the one time a year people can't be turned away, and the one time a year for many when they can get financial help, and we need to remind people life can change in an instant," Lee added. 

As part of Saturday's Covered California information presentation, Hancock College dance students performed a salsa dance number, called "a quinceanera gone wrong," choreographed by Hancock College dance instructor Jesus Solorio. The dance is to encourage more Californians to enroll in Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare coverage. 

Solorio was selected by Covered California to choreograph the performance for the Central Coast stop of their statewide tour. For his part, Solorio handpicked dancers from the college to act out the comical performance. 

It involved salsa dancing a sudden, unfortunate selfie-related incident at a quinceanera requiring immediate medical attention, Solorio said of the performance. 

"it's something that connects with the Latino population -- it's lighthearted, fun, and shows the importance of being insured." 

Lee also noted that it was important to note what happened during Tuesday's midterm elections -- as the midterms, "in many ways, was about healthcare."

"You talk about a blue wave, but it wasn't a blue wave, it was a healthcare wave," said Lee. "There was a wave across America that the Affordable Care Act was now irrevocably woven into the fabric of this nation, and California has been on the forefront of that mission."

"I know we have come a long way but we still have a long way to go," said Lee.

In the last five years, Covered California insured millions of people that previously didn't have health insurance, but there's still over 1 million Californians eligible for Medi-Cal or Covered California who are uninsured today, Lee said. 

"And so, they're the ones we're reaching out to — there's tens of thousands of people from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo who need insurance," said Lee. "They don't know the good news — there's financial help [available.] For many who get insurance through us, it [costs] only $2 a month — it's that little."

Four out of five people eligible for financial assistance aren't aware of their eligibility, added Lee. 

"There are two myths we [dispel' head-on in this tour," said Lee. "One is, you can't afford healthcare; millions are given financial help. The other myth: 'I don't need healthcare because I won't get sick.'"

However, last year, 20,000 patients insured with Covered California suffered a broken arm or dislocated shoulder, and not one of those people walked into 2018 thinking 'I'm going to get cancer or break a leg,'" said Lee. 

"We're truly a safety net to make sure nobody will be walking around worrying about being sick without having coverage, and we're here to give people a peace of mind knowing they can get healthcare."

For more information on enrollment, visit 

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Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210


Courts/Public Safety Reporter