Covered California and the Department of Health Care Services put out new numbers yesterday showing the breadth of the coverage expansion through the Affordable Care Act just halfway through open enrollment period. The new numbers confirm that over a million and a half Californians are getting new financial assistance through the new coverage options under the Affordable Care Act.
Covered California reported that over a half-million Californians picked a plan in the new marketplace to be ready to start January 1, with around 425,000 eligible for subsidies to help pay premiums. In addition, over 1.2 million Californians have recently obtained Medi-Cal coverage under the expansion, including 630,000 who were switched from county-based Low-Income Health Programs that served as a “bridge to health reform” since the ACA’s passage. Over 584,0000 more have signed up for new Medi-Cal coverage through Covered California as well.
And these numbers don’t include the over 400,000 young adults up to age 26 now on their parents coverage, or those who are buying new (or continued) guaranteed issue health insurance plans.
Most of these Californians are newly covered, or have coverage that is cheaper or better than what they had before. We are pleased California is leading in the nation, with over a fifth of the national plan sign-ups, a result of our state appropriately taking full advantage of the solutions offered by the Affordable Care Act.
As dramatic and gratifying as these numbers are, the number of uninsured is bigger, and so there is more work to do. While for some enrollment has been easy, too many have not gotten the world class customer service that has been the goal. Covered California should and will make improvements as we go along the next ten weeks, especially as we expect a big surge as we approach the March deadlines, The work of enrollment is now more urgent–every day we leave folks unenrolled is a day we are leaving money in Washington, DC, rather than having those dollars come into the health system on which we all rely, our economy, and our community. We have ten weeks to outreach to and educate Californians about the new options provided by the Affordable Care Act, and we need to use every last day. With these new options available to millions more uninsured, we shouldn’t leave Californians one emergency away from financial ruin, and our health system, our community and our economy worse off.
California should and will learn the lessons of the last three months to improve the work of enrollment, from improved information technology, to more and better trained enrollment counselors, to more targeted outreach in California’s diverse communities. There are adjustments and improvements that need to be made immediately, and ones that can be implemented by the next open enrollment period. We also need to provide more help to those who may be left behind and uninsured, due to the income or immigration status. California had led in taking advantage of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, but we can and should do even better moving forward.