Long Division, Wrong Division

What is 3000 divided by 300,000? 0.01, or 1%.

To date, MRMIB has received 3,000 email inquiries related to applying for PCIP, the new High Risk Pool created as a result of Federal Health Reform Law. 3,000 may seem like a large number, especially considering the short period of time has elapsed since the program’s inception. However, “large” is a relative term, and relative to the potential estimated 300,000+ people in California who need a Pre-existing Conditions Insurance Plan, it’s actually quite small.

But this is not the division that matters most.

MRMIB staff reported that 99% of inquiries received were received electronically, which means only 1% of inquires are from those who may lack access to the internet. As we move forward with implementation of PCIP, the Health Insurance Exchange, and other pieces of federal health reform law, it is important that we heed the digital divide. MRMIB has not demonstrated any interest in expanding outreach for PCIP beyond posting notices on a designated section of their website; and the Administration has indicated that the Exchange may be available online only. Technologies such as the Internet can be a tremendously efficient and convenient way to reach people, but it is important to remember who is being left out of the conversation, and in this case, who is being excluded from these programs.

Communities of color, adults over 60, people with disabilities, and people who live in rural areas are all less likely to have access to the internet, and some studies have shown that the digital divide is associated with worse health outcomes. The state needs to do its due diligence to be inclusive in its outreach efforts and enrollment processes to ensure that these new programs do not institutionally exclude some of the communities that need these programs the most.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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