Thousands of Uninsured Flock to Fresno Health Fair

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Video (above): New America Media conducted exit interviews with attendees at the "WeConnect" health and resource fair in Fresno, California, on Saturday, February 9.

FRESNO, Calif. – Tuyet Ta, 53, came to get treatment for a toothache she had been enduring for weeks. She has had no health insurance since she lost her job two years ago.

Michael Perkins, 71, a Medicare-Medi-Cal enrollee, wanted some answers as to why he was kicked off Medi-Cal last month, after being on it for more than a couple of years.

Leticia Acosta, 16, came to find out what sort of health care is available for her, her mom and her 21-year-old brother, until they get legal status in the United States.

A middle-aged, female migrant farm worker came because she loses her health insurance coverage during the six or so off-season months, and she wanted to find out if there was any way she could get covered year-round.

Ta, Perkins, Acosta and the migrant farm worker were among an estimated 8,000 people, from Fresno and surrounding communities, who converged on the Fresno Fairgrounds on February 9 for The California Endowment-sponsored WeConnect Health Care Enrollment and Resource Fair.

Five other similar events are planned over the next two months in other parts of the state to increase enrollment in the health care programs that have already rolled out under the 2010 landmark health reform act, popularly known as Obamacare, to provide health insurance for every legal citizen. On Jan. 1, 2014, Obamacare will be fully implemented.

WeConnect bilingual volunteers were kept busy during the one-day event, signing up attendees for health care enrollment.

An exit poll of attendees at the WeConnect event, conducted by youth reporters from Silicon Valley De-Bug and Merced-based We’Ced, community media satellites of New America Media, indicated an eagerness among many attendees to cash in on the health care programs they were eligible for, but didn’t know about, until Feb. 9. New America Media is a grantee of The California Endowment.

In addition to health care assistance, the Fresno event offered a range of free services, from tax preparation to bike repairs. There was also the BFF Express, a trailer that offered a clean and safe breastfeeding environment and was part of First 5 Fresno County, which offers health and education information resources for young children.