California health insurance exchange
Applications, enrollment climbing through Covered California
By Carla Anderson
December 3, 2013
Through Nov. 19, nearly 80,000 people have obtained private insurance through Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace. In addition, about 135,000 people qualified for Medi-Cal — California’s Medicaid program. Enrollment figures released by Covered California shows weekly applications have more than doubled since enrollment began. Between Nov. 10 and Nov. 16, 71,188 applications were completed.
The Covered California website is generally working smoothly, despite some early technical problems. One issue was with the physician network directory, a tool that allows consumers to see which doctors and hospitals are included in a health plan’s network. The directory was temporarily removed from the website, and an updated version was released on Oct. 22. On Dec. 2, Covered California released enhanced functionality for the small-business portion of the exchange. Small businesses can now use the website to get a price quote and complete enrollment.
California was the first state to authorize an exchange after the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, and it has a large and diverse population. Accordingly, Covered California is being watched carefully by both supporters and opponents of the health reform law.
Eleven insurers are selling individual coverage through Covered California:
- Anthem Blue Cross of California
- Blue Shield of California
- Chinese Community Health Plan
- Contra Costa Health Plan
- Health Net
- Kaiser Permanente
- L.A. Care Health Plan
- Molina Healthcare
- Sharp Health Plan
- Valley Health Plan
- Western Health Advantage
Not all insurers are available in all counties.
While critics of Obamacare predicted premiums would skyrocket, that hasn’t happened in California. Health plans submitted rates that were 29 percent below to just 2 percent above what equivalent policies cost in 2013. According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in California is $278 a month. The national average for a bronze policy is $249 a month.
Covered California is expected to help more than 2.3 million state residents obtain health coverage by 2017. Accordingly to the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services (HHS), about 5.6 million California residents are uninsured and eligible to use the marketplace. About 2.6 million will qualify for subsidies to help purchase coverage.
Open enrollment for coverage in 2014 runs from Oct. 1, 2013 through March 31, 2014. Policies must be purchased by Dec. 23 for coverage to begin Jan. 1, 2014.
California health insurance exchange links
California Health Benefit Exchange
Information about exchange planning and development
State Exchange Profile: California
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of California’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.