Photos: Getting coverage at a pop-up Obamacare center

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If California has a capital of Obamacare enrollment, you’ll find it at a Los Angeles mall next to a Sears, on the second floor of 3650 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

This is the office of Crenshaw Health Partners, in the heart of the Crenshaw district. As the second open enrollment period under Obamacare gets underway, you’ll be seeing pictures of people signing up for new health plans in all kinds of pop-up centers, from farmers markets to storefronts. But you won’t see anything quite like Crenshaw Health Partners.

Officials from Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, said this fall that Crenshaw Health Partners is the only full-time enrollment center that is a bricks-and-mortar store.

Sometimes people are confused about the center’s location. You can hear staff members confirming over the phone that yes, indeed, they are in the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza mall.  Crenshaw Health Partners is open every day, including evenings and weekends. Enrollment is not limited to just health plans sold under the Covered California exchange. They’ll enroll you in Medi-Cal, in Medicare plans, in veterans health benefits. If it involves enrollment and healthcare, they offer it.

And if you can’t make it to mall, Crenshaw’s enrollment specialists will come to you. They also roam the city, signing people up at fairs and churches and anyplace that will have them.

On November 15, the first day of this open enrollment period, Zócalo photographer Aaron Salcido arrived at Crenshaw Health Partners just before the store opened for business at 10 a.m. While only about eight people ended up walking through the enrollment center’s doors in the first few hours of the day, there was a concerted attempt to make the experience festive. There’s no escaping the starchiness of a room full of cubicles and taupe carpeting, but the folks who worked there livened up this portal into federal paperwork with fresh irises and blue balloons. And just outside, other organizations had set up booths to take advantage of an audience that was already primed to think about their health. Dentists and dental students from the Hispanic Dental Association and UCLA showed kids how to brush their teeth and floss.

Some people walked away without health insurance that day because they hadn’t brought proper I.D., but most people did end up with a plan. One man even left with a broad smile because it cost less than he expected.

This project comes to us from Zocalo Public Square. Zocalo staff wrote this introduction and all photographs are by Aaron Salcido.