By NICK MEYERS
U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez visited Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus Jan. 29 to greet volunteers participating in an Affordable Care Act enrollment fair.
Perez summarized his visit in a single sentence while addressing media during the fair. “I’ve been visiting employers talking about how we can upscale workers to punch their ticket into the middle class,” he said.
He also spent time visiting PCC’s Aviation Technology Center and talking with local leaders about ways employees and businesses can better work together to achieve equitable outcomes.
“I’m excited to be able to see firsthand how smart federal investments to expand the kind of job-driven training that PCC has been pioneering for years, and new programs that provide affordable access to health care, are paying off for Tucson,” he said.
The Downtown Campus enrollment fair was hosted by Student Life with help from the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, a statewide public interest organization focusing on research.
“We’ve been helping to spearhead some efforts on this campus as our focus is working to make sure young adults know their options and rights,” said Diane Brown, Arizona PIRG executive director.
Both Perez and Brown stressed the importance of convincing uninsured young people to enroll in a health care plan.
“The bad news is that too often young adults believe that between credit card debt and living expenses, they cannot afford health insurance and therefore they too often defer coverage until it is too late,” Brown said.
The labor secretary’s visit fell on National Youth Enrollment Day, dedicated to getting young adults to sign up for health care.
“I can tell you all too many stories of young invincibles who went skiing and got in an accident or drove home and got in an accident,” Perez said.
“The good news is the vast majority of Arizonans are receiving financial assistance to pay for their health insurance and local enrollment assistants can help with the enrollment process,” Brown said.
Some 77 percent of people who signed up in the first four weeks qualified for financial assistance.
“It’s really exciting and exhilarating to visit with folks and see that they’re signing more and more people up,” Perez said.
Feb. 15 is the deadline for healthcare enrollment under the ACA to avoid a fine.
“What we’ve seen nationally is a dramatic uptick in the number of young adults who are being covered under their parents’ plan or more young adults that are enrolling here,” Perez said.
For more information visit “Health Insurance 101” at the PRG site, arizonapirgedfund.org.