U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, came to Oakland today to promote the nation’s new health care law, saying it will help millions of Americans get the health care they need.

Speaking at La Clinica de La Raza community health center in Oakland’s largely Hispanic Fruitvale district, Boxer said the Affordable Care Act is providing funding for construction and renovation projects at community health centers across the country.

Health centers in California such as La Clinica de La Raza are receiving $509 million of that funding, she said.

Boxer said community health providers also will get funding to inform residents about their new health care choices and their eligibility for financial assistance or guaranteed coverage through Medicaid.

In addition, Boxer said it’s important to educate residents about new coverage that will be available through California’s new state-run health care exchange, which is called Covered California and will start enrolling people on Oct. 1.

Jane Garcia, the chief executive of La Clinica de La Raza, which is based in Oakland and operates 31 clinics in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties serving 85,000 patients annually, said the clinics plan to enroll thousands of new patients.

“We’re ready for ObamaCare and we’re excited to be part of a wild movement,” Garcia said.

Referring to the Oct. 1 start for enrolling people in Covered California, Herb Schultz, the regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said, “We’re 57 days away from making history.”

Schultz said that’s because the local implementation of the Affordable Care Act will start at that time and millions of people will be able to get affordable health insurance for the first time.

Among those will be about 56,000 Alameda County residents who will be eligible for Medi-Cal subsidies, he said.

Boxer said Covered California and similar state-run health care exchanges that will begin in all 50 states will provide marketplaces where people can compare a wide range of health plans that would allow them to get coverage for as little as $162 a month and find out if they can get subsidies to make coverage even more affordable.

Boxer said the new law, which is already in place but has many provisions that won’t take effect until next year, is “a big deal” because many people across the country, including 7 million Californians, currently don’t have health insurance.

She said one of the law’s most important elements is banning insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

As an example of the law’s significance, Boxer then introduced Castro Valley resident Sage McCollister, who said the law is already helping her family because she was able to get insurance for her daughter Leah, who was born seven years ago with neutropenia, an autoimmune disorder that makes her vulnerable to serious infections.

McCollister said she applied to eight different insurance companies to try to get insurance for her daughter but none of them offered plans that were affordable.

She said that after the law went into effect she was able to get insurance for Leah for $8 a month and that helped her afford to have Leah get an expensive procedure to treat a spinal cord problem that could have resulted in paralysis.

McCollister said that without the Affordable Care Act, “My family would be bankrupt and Leah wouldn’t have gotten the health care they need.”

Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News

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