California Leads At Halftime, But The Work Continues In the New Year

Monday, December 23rd, 2013



* Covered California Reports 77,000 Sign-Ups This Weekend; Over 400,000 Since October
* California Leads At “Halftime”–But Three More Months of Enrollment Effort 

* Three Ways to Help California Be Healthier in the New Year:

* Enroll Yourself/Friends At (Pick a Plan Today, Start Coverage Jan 1)

* Did You Sign-Up Already? Share Your Story So We Can Defend/Improve the Law

* Contribute to Health Access To Help CA Seize The Opportunities  in The New Year

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   Read Real-Time Updates on ACA Implementation on Twitter @HealthAccess!

Covered California, the statewide marketplace for health coverage, is reporting a surge of sign-ups leading up to today’s deadline to pick a plan in order for health coverage to start on January 1. From just December 20-22, Covered California reported over 77,000 sign-ups, with now over 400,000 enrolled since the start of open enrollment in October.

In a press conference today, Covered California director Peter Lee has said that folks who start their applications today, and can’t finish through no fault of their own (like a technical issue) will be helped for another day to get enrolled, so their coverage starts on New Year’s Day. They are expected a substantial number of additional sign-ups today.

So while over a million Californians had coverage under new Affordable Care Act options in 2013, starting January, hundreds of thousands more Californians will be either newly covered, or have coverage that is cheaper or better than what they had before.

This deadline isn’t the final one–the open enrollment extends to the end of March 2014. Consumer advocate points out that while California has good numbers at “halftime,” there are three more months to outreach to and educate Californians about the new options provided by the Affordable Care Act. While the folks sought in the next three months will be by definition harder to sign up than the ones who signed up in the last three months, there should and will be learned lessons from that experience to improve enrollment efforts, from more stable information technology, to more and better trained enrollment counselors, to more targeted outreach in California’s diverse communities.

ACTIONS TO HELP: Here are three ways to make California healthier in the new year:

** If you or a friend or family member is uninsured, enroll at Covered California at You have this evening to pick a plan in order for your coverage to start on January 1, 2014. Take full advantage of the new options in health coverage today!

** If you have already tried to sign up, and have a story to tell (positive or negative) about your experience, let us know. With your permission, Health Access would love to share your story, to defend the law’s new expansions and consumer protections, as well as to improve it and extend additional help to all who need it.

** If you want to support the ongoing work to implement and improve health reform here in California, consider a charitable contribution to Health Access before the end of the year.

CALIFORNIA LEADS THE WAY: California led the way in winning the law, and in the last three years in putting in place the pieces to make Obamacare work, and to maximize its benefits, and truly fulfill its promise–for California consumers and families, for our constituents, and communities. Health Access California is proud of our leadership role in advancing the effort in California, even just this year:

* Earlier this year we released a report showing that one million Californians (multiple times than any other state) are already benefitting from the new coverage options under the law, due to our collective efforts to implement and improve the law.

* We’ve passed laws to expand Medicaid, reform our insurance markets to ban denials for pre-existing conditions, and limit out-of-pocket costs.

* Our new exchange Covered California leads the nation in enrolling people, in plans with competitive rates and standardized benefits for easy comparison.

* California came together to pass Proposition 30 and stop the budget crisis, and in this last budget cycle was able to make a few critical restorations of past cuts, including providing dental coverage to over 3 million low-income Californians, and expended mental health services–including as a benefit to those newly insured in health reform’s Medi-Cal expansion.

THE SPOTLIGHT ON CALIFORNIA: But the work isn’t done—2014 will be critical. We need your help, as the eyes of the nation are on California. Talking Points Memo proclaimed “For those following ACA news closely, I’d almost say forget everything you hear about the law outside of California”; As Ezra Klein of the Washington Post wrote, “California is a particularly important test for Obamacare.. If California can’t make the law work, perhaps no one can. But if California can make the law work, it shows that others can, too.” The head of the Kaiser Family Foundation declared “The ACA can’t succeed if California fails.” And former President Bill Clinton, said “If this works in California, eventually America will follow your lead. “ We have the responsibility to provide the example and inspiration for advocates and policymakers across the country—and provide the momentum to take the additional steps not just to implement the law, but to improve our health system further.

SUPPORTING THE WORK IN THE NEW YEAR: Just as the work didn’t end with the passage of the law, we have much more to do. This holiday season, Health Access asks if you can consider a contribution, to help ensure access to care and coverage for millions more. We ask for your support for our 2014 agenda:

·         We must meet the “Year One” challenge of getting millions of Californians enrolled in coverage through innovative outreach and education efforts, including continuing work to make signing up simple if not seamless.

·         We need to be vigilant against efforts to confuse consumers, by political opponents of the law, insurers trying to game the system, or scammers seeking an undeserved payday.

·         We still have to work to ensure safety-net care and coverage for the remaining uninsured, defending resources for public hospital and county public health services, and ensuring a medical home for *all* Californians, including those aspiring for citizenship.

·         We still have to improve Medi-Cal, to include benefits previously cut, and to improve provider rates and thus access to care—and to work for the revenues to improve Medi-Cal into the future.

·         We still have more we can do to reduce the cost of coverage, from stronger insurance regulation and reforms to address the underlying cost of care.

Now, at this critical time, Health Access seeks your contribution to make health reform successful in California, and to take the additional steps needed. Everyone needs to be at the table for these crucial decisions.

With your support, we can make historic progress, this year, in the cause of ensuring quality, affordable health care for all Californians—and lead the nation in going further.

Thank you for your consideration. From all of us at Health Access, may you have a happy and healthy holiday season and new year!