Covered California Begins Countdown to Final Days to Enroll in Health Plans
With the famous Olvera Street in Los Angeles as the backdrop, Covered California™ and the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) announced today that more than 3 million Californians have signed up for health coverage through Covered California or Medi-Cal since Oct. 1. During the mid-day multicultural rally, officials from Covered California and DHCS encouraged all consumers, particularly those who don’t qualify for Medi-Cal, to enroll as soon as possible in health insurance coverage, to beat the expected last-minute rush of applications.
The number of consumers selecting a Covered California health insurance plan reached 880,082 by the end of February — including 762,174 consumers who are eligible for subsidies. The five-month enrollment figure exceeds by more than 300,000 the base projection for Covered California for the entire six-month enrollment period, which ends March 31.
The surge continues this month, with total enrollment in Covered California health insurance plans reaching 923,832 through March 9.
Additionally, 1,136,000 exchange applicants were determined to be likely eligible for Medi-Cal coverage. This number reflects new Medi-Cal applicants as well as some ongoing caseload eligibility activity that is conducted via the Covered California Web portal.
“We are rolling toward a strong finish, but we’re here to encourage consumers to not wait untilMarch 31 to join the millions of Californians who have already found their pathway to affordable coverage, and enroll today,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee, referring to the end of the inaugural open-enrollment period under the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “We’re building momentum on many fronts: among Latinos, among young people and in communities throughout the state. Californians’ desire for health insurance to protect themselves and their families is building on friends telling friends and family telling family.”
Lee said insurance companies are reporting that 85 percent of all enrollees have paid their first month’s premium.
In addition to the 1,136,000 applicants determined likely eligible for Medi-Cal coverage through the Covered California Web portal, 968,500 individuals have already enrolled for Medi-Cal coverage. They include approximately 650,000 former Low Income Health Program (LIHP) members transitioned to Medi-Cal by DHCS, 134,000 individuals who applied through the state’s Express Lane program and another 184,500 individuals enrolled directly through county human services agencies, which play a critical role in the processing and approval of all Medi-Cal applications, including those received through Covered California.
“It is evident by this tremendous response that many Californians have long been waiting for this kind of opportunity to get quality health care coverage,” said DHCS Director Toby Douglas. “We’re grateful for the tremendous efforts of our county partners, and we look forward to continuing our year-round enrollment work that makes health coverage possible for more Californians.”
February saw a continued increase in the number of Latinos enrolled — from 119,835 at the end of January to 153,561 through the end of February. DHCS also reported strong Latino participation among those found likely to be eligible for Medi-Cal enrollment. Through Feb. 28, 431,680 of those found likely eligible for Medi-Cal coverage, or 38 percent, self-identified as Latino.
“The word is spreading among Latinos about this important opportunity to get quality health care, and they are responding in growing numbers,” Lee said. “While it is good news that almost 600,000 Latinos have found coverage under the Affordable Care Act, we recognize we have a way to go toward insuring larger numbers of Latinos and Californians in the coming weeks. It’s both a short-term and a long-term, multi-year effort to change the mindset of the uninsured from a culture of coping into a culture of coverage.
“We won’t quit reaching out until all who want and need insurance are covered,” Lee said.
Covered California has been pushing hard in Latino communities, with heightened advertising, education and outreach, and enrollment campaigns.
Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, joined Lee at the Olvera Street rally to encourage Latinos to enroll today in coverage. Last week, Covered California enlisted the help of the iconic labor and civil rights leader to produce radio spots and videos available on YouTube, in English and Spanish, calling on Latinos to sign up for insurance.
Covered California is planning nearly 650 enrollment activities in communities throughout the state in the final weeks before the deadline. A targeted on-the-ground strategy is under way in collaboration with Covered California’s community partners to create face-to-face opportunities for enrollment, particularly in Latino communities in Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and the Central and San Joaquin valleys.
Through March 7, online applications were started for an estimated 3,787,569 individuals seeking coverage. In the month of February, 164,870 individuals enrolled in subsidized or unsubsidized coverage through Covered California.
Enrollment of young adults 18 to 34 years old is trending slightly upward, at 26.5 percent of the consumers who have selected a Covered California health insurance plan. This age group represents about 25 percent of the state’s population but approximately 36 percent of those who are eligible for subsidies. Also, about 35 percent of those newly enrolled in Medi-Cal are young adults 18 to 34 years old.
Most subsidy-eligible consumers who enrolled in the exchange through Feb. 28 — 515,027, or about 68 percent — signed up for a Silver plan, the second-lowest-costing plan of the four plan tiers. About 86 percent of consumers across all tiers received some sort of financial assistance.
In Covered California’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), 1,073 small businesses — representing nearly 8,188 employees and their dependents — have enrolled for coverage through Feb. 28.
Consumers are reminded that there are many paths to enroll in Covered California health insurance plans and in Medi-Cal, including in-person assistance from thousands of Certified Insurance Agents, Certified Enrollment Counselors and county eligibility workers, as well as self-enrollment online. Consumers can find the nearest in-person assisters by visiting the “Find Local Help” page at CoveredCA.com.
Though open enrollment for Covered California health plans ends March 31, Californians who experience a life-changing event, including the birth of a child or the loss of employer-provided insurance, may qualify to enroll outside of the open-enrollment period. Medi-Cal enrollment continues year round.
Here’s a sample of what people were saying through Covered California’s social media channels in February:
“Had to take my 5-year-old to the ER in the middle of the night. For all the issues with the ACA, I am so grateful she was insured. Would have been thousands of dollars. This is what insurance is about … the catastrophic unexpected. Thank you ACA.”— Lisa (via Facebook)
“Just got my #Obamacare @CoveredCA insurance plan in the mail. I’m ecstatic. Saving $400 month.”— Anonymous (via Twitter)
“@CoveredCA Loving my new Heath coverage, Way to go California.”— Anonymous (via Twitter)
“Just paid my first premium for @CoveredCA healthcare. A 42% reduction for a nearly-identical plan. #ThanksObama.”— Anonymous (via Twitter)
About Covered California
Covered California is the state’s marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Covered California, in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services, was charged with creating a new health insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to affordable health insurance plans. With coverage starting in 2014, Covered California helps individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance that is available on a sliding-scale basis to reduce insurance costs or whether they are eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Small businesses can purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.
Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the new market work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the Governor and the Legislature. For more information on Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.
About the Department of Health Care Services
The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) works to preserve and improve the physical and mental health of all Californians. DHCS provides health care services for approximately 9.4 million Californians through Medi-Cal, including medical, dental, mental health, substance use treatment services and long-term services and supports. This is accomplished through an investment of approximately $70 billion annually in public funds for the care of low-income families, children, pregnant women, seniors and persons with disabilities. DHCS focuses on delivering quality, effective services primarily through coordinated systems of care provided by 21 Medi-Cal managed care plans located in all of California’s 58 counties. For more information about DHCS, please visit www.dhcs.ca.gov.