Short Takes On News & Events

Californians Continuing To Flock To New Insurance Exchange

By Anna Gorman

December 13th, 2013, 6:34 AM

Enrollment in California’s new health insurance marketplace is picking up speed, with more than 156,000 signed up for coverage through last week, officials announced Thursday.

Peter Lee (Photo by Heidi de Marco/KHN)

Nearly a third of the enrollees – 49,700 – ­­­ completed their applications during the first week of December.

“The momentum is very positive,” Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said during a press conference in Los Angeles. “That momentum is not stopping. It’s building.”

In California, one of 14 states and the District of Columbia to operate its own insurance exchange, enrollment has gone smoothly compared to the initially troubled rollout of federally run exchanges in 36 other states.  Accounting for about a third of sign-ups nationally as of last month, the state is considered key to the success of the Affordable Care Act.

People who want coverage starting Jan. 1 should sign up by Dec. 23. Lee said he expected a surge in enrollments before the deadline, and pledged that his staff would be working overtime to process applications.

He stressed that consumers must pay their first premium for the coverage to be effective.

Even if consumers miss the first deadline, Lee said, they can continue to sign up until the end of open enrollment on March 31.

Through the insurance marketplace, consumers whose incomes fall under 400 percent of federal poverty level – about $46,000 for an individual – may be eligible for premium subsidies.

Lee said that 21  percent of the enrollees so far are between the ages of 18 and 34, on par with their share of the population. This group is critical to balance out the older and often sicker consumers who have been waiting to get insurance.

But he said the exchange still is trying to do a better job getting Spanish speakers signed up. Less than 5% of the enrollees speak Spanish primarily, even though they represent about 29 percent of the general population.

Lee said he plans to evaluate the exchange’s marketing with an eye toward more effectively reaching those who speak other languages.

About 96 percent of those enrolled during the first two months chose one of four plans – Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente and Health Net.

Toby Douglas, head of the state’s Department of Health Care Services, said that in addition to enrollees in Covered California plans, about 108,000 people were determined to be eligible for Medi-Cal, which serves poorer consumers.

agorman@kff.org

The Blue Shield Foundation of California supports KHN coverage of California.

11 Responses to “Californians Continuing To Flock To New Insurance Exchange”

  1. Ronald Mason says:

    Obamacare reminds me of the old joke, “I am from the Federal Government and I am here to help.”

    Obamacare is going to be a financial disaster for this Country. The so called “middle class” that the Democrats so claim to be who they protect are getting killed by Obamacare. I have not seen any plan for a single person that is less than $6,000 deductible. And I am told that a couple is looking at 12,000 as a deductible!

    That is ON TOP of the premiums they must pay — so that if someone pays $8,000 for insurance and then another $6,000 to $12.000 in deductibles, their heath insurance actually costs them between $14,000 and $20,000 BEFORE the insurance company pays the first dime.

    No wonder the insurance companies LOVE Obamacare!!!!!!

    Thank you Democrats for destroying this Country… PERIOD!

  2. David says:

    “Toby Douglas, head of the state’s Department of Health Care Services, said that in addition to enrollees in Covered California plans, about 108,000 people were determined to be eligible for Medi-Cal, which serves poorer consumers.”

    This is out of the total enrollments of 156,000? That means that the overwhelming majority are not paying anything, the folks on welfare, not that there is anything wrong with that. The rest of us will pay their premiums.

  3. Jeff says:

    Remember the wars the Republicans did not include in the deficit. That is around 20% of the deficit and is something the Republicans never discuss. Both parties are responsible for the problems in the USA. Oh and that government shutdown cost 42 billion and caused many businesses to close. Lets thank the Republicans for that moving forward moment. Affordable care is something we need. If the Republicans ( that have health care) want to help the USA they should figure out a plan that works for all not a select few and come off as heartless.

  4. Da'ud Muad'dib says:

    Thank you Ronald for continuing the scare tactics your friends on Faux News, Not so Briet-bart and The Rush Show keep peddling. Obamacare is so much more than the exchanges and the exchanges are only for 20% of the population. Did you forget that if you have insurance through your employer, Medicaid, Medicare or Tricare that these issues with the exchanges don’t effect your? Did you miss where there are subsidies if your can’t afford insurance? Did you miss where insurance can only cost 9% of your income? And maybe you missed where all the people who had pre-existing conditions or life time limits or aged out of their parents insurance will now have insurance, so there is plenty good coming out of Obamacare. These glitches and over pricing can be fixed if you people would stop harping that the sky is falling and help to make the program better. Lord knows this is better than what we had before and the Repugs did little or nothing to fix it while in office.

  5. Ray says:

    While 156k enrollments is a big number, do remember, there are 2,500,000 uninsured, about 1,400,000 of which are eligible for subsidies.

    They have spent $250,000,000.00 on outreach, about $1,600 per enrollee so far.

    Also, 800,000 contract were cancelled in the state, even if every single exchange enrollment was one of these people, less than a quarter of those who lost coverage would be signed up.

  6. So it may turn out that the Affordable Care Act is designed in such a way that it actually works reasonably well in California, but nowhere else. Time will tell of course, but it’s clear that California is well ahead of any other state.

  7. sam says:

    For years I have had a very high deductible healthcare policy. It was all that I could afford and it wasn’t cheap. My healthcare policy will be canceled because it does not meet the standard of the ACA. That prompted me to shop the new insurance exchange for a new healthcare policy. It wasn’t long before I found a new policy. To my surprise, my premiums were cut by 65 percent for a healthcare policy with a very low deductible. I pay the same copays when I visit the doctor. My shopping experience was quick and easy. The enrollment process was even easier and three days later the insurance company sent me the notice in the mail for my first premium payment. What’s all the fuss? It works great and I’m getting a much better deal than when I was on my old policy. If you got a cancelation notice, shop the insurance exchange. I did and I was very pleasantly surprised!

  8. patty says:

    Ronald,

    Did you stop taking your meds?

  9. Da'ud Muad'dib says:

    David if we look back at the original problem there were three categories of uninsured. Those who couldn’t, those who wouldn’t and those who were too poor. Some of those who couldn’t have been helped by the obamacare “can’t be denied for pre” rule, some by the obamacare “can’t be denied for lifetime limits” rule and some by the obamacare ‘stay on parent’s’ rule. Of those who won’t well many of them still don’t want to and will wait until the last minute or beyond, of those who were too poor, well now we won’t foot the emergency room bill but the general Dr. bill. I think for all three categories this is a win for us.

  10. patty says:

    David posts, “That means that the overwhelming majority are not paying anything, the folks on welfare, not that there is anything wrong with that. The rest of us will pay their premiums.”

    And what makes you think that “the rest of us” have not been paying their premiums all along? Are you really that naive? You must be a Republicans, right? Here’s a news flash! Those of us that always play by the rules and pay their premiums on time are paying, on average, about $1300 extra each year to cover the cost of uncompensated emergency room (ER) care for uninsured freeloaders. Always have! Always will! There will never be a time when you can legislate morality. There will never be a time when you can force freeloaders to pay. If freeloaders want to continue getting a free ride, there’s nothing you can do about it. Got that? The freeloaders in society will not buy health insurance and they will keep showing up at the hospital ER for their “free” routine healthcare. Republicans (Heritage Foundation) had a good idea when they originally thought of mandated health insurance. Gov. Mitt Romney liked the idea so much he enacted it in Massachusetts. Now, all of a sudden, because Obama wants it for the rest of America, Republicans hate the idea. Republicans? Can anyone make sense of that stupid party?

  11. patty says:

    “Obamacare reminds me of the old joke, “I am from the Federal Government and I am here to help.””

    Unlike total tea party morons that think we don’t need police protection and sewers maintained and fresh water to drink and air traffic control and fire protection and traffic lights and speed limit signs and roads and bridges maintained and a national defense and on and on and on, I happen to think we need government services. The real joke would be the chaos in your strange world of survival with lots of guns and doomsday kits and a cabin in Ruby Ridge.

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