The California state health insurance exchange, Covered California, is outstripping every other state in its number of enrollees. A surge of nearly 50,000 enrollments the first week of December has brought the total number of residents who have purchased a health plan on the exchange to over 150,000.
An additional 179,000 residents have applied for -- and in most cases are eligible for -- Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program, which has expanded to include households with incomes up to 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (after a five percent income disregard.)
In a December 12 press statement, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said, "Enrollments and applications are surging, and we at Covered California — and our partners — are stepping up our game to meet the demand."
California went into health care reform with more than seven million uninsured citizens.
It was the first state to enact legislation establishing an exchange, and the state developed a robust outreach and education program to attract enrollees. The statewide outreach strategy targeted diverse ethnic, religious and age groups, awarding 48 community organizations a total of $32 million in grants for consumer-focused programs.
Fifty-eight percent of the uninsured in the state are Hispanic citizens. While the new numbers show great promise of reaching a goal of universal coverage in the state, only five percent of the new enrollees listed their language as Spanish. This may not be an accurate measure of the ethnicity demographics as most Covered California applicants chose not to state their race, but Lee tells The California Report that Covered California plans to step up outreach efforts in the Latino community.
Through the end of November, exchange figures show that nearly 200,000 applications for insurance have been initiated, but not completed. On December 13, Covered California announced the launch of an enrollment follow-up program. Certified enrollment counselors and insurance agents may directly contact applicants with incomplete applications to offer assistance with enrollment. Consumers who have completed an application, but have yet to select a plan, may be contacted by a certified insurance agent to offer help with plan selection.
Applicants that do not want to work with a Covered California representative always have the option of completing the enrollment process on their own or withdrawing their application for health insurance. Lee emphasizes that enrollee privacy is a priority and Covered California has strict regulations protecting consumers' information.
"Our goal," says Lee, "is to be sure that people get the peace of mind that comes with health insurance coverage, and we don't want any Californian to fall through the cracks and miss that chance for coverage."
Covered California and Access CT, the Connecticut exchange, have joined with Enroll America in a new marketing campaign, "Tell a Friend – Get Covered." The campaign, launched December 12, will partner with celebrity actors, musicians and athletes to encourage peer-to-peer conversations about why health insurance is necessary and how to find affordable coverage. "Tell a Friend – Get Covered" will post weekly videos through March 31, 2014 and plans an eight-hour live-streamed event on January 16.
For more information:
- Covered California
- Covered California (Español)
- Outreach and enrollment assistance centers (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.
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