California: CoveredCA announces 1.1M uninsured Californians eligible for ACA coverage

2019 OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS (most states)

Time: D H M S

Covered California, the largest state-based ACA exchange for the largest state in the country, actually launched their 2019 ACA Open Enrollment Period over three weeks ago, on October 15th.

They still haven't posted any 2019 enrollment numbers, which I find rather irritating, but they did just send out the following press release regarding a promotional bus tour they're doing which highlights a couple of interesting data points:

Covered California Launches Iconic Bus Tour to Promote Enrollment and Show How “Life Can Change in an Instant”

  • Covered California’s statewide bus tour will travel the state to promote enrollment and encourage consumers to see if they are eligible for financial help in obtaining quality health insurance.
  • An estimated 1.1 million uninsured Californians are eligible to enroll in Covered California and new research shows that 82 percent of uninsured consumers surveyed, who are eligible for financial assistance, do not know that they qualify.
  • Covered California launched an ad campaign today that shows that the average consumer pays $5 a day for health insurance, with many paying much less.
  • The tour focuses on how “life can change in an instant” and will feature original performances by dance crews across the state.
  • Consumers must sign up by Dec. 15 in order to have their coverage begin on Jan. 1, 2019. Enrollment will continue through Jan. 15.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California launched its open-enrollment tour on Thursday to encourage consumers to sign up for health care coverage during the current open-enrollment period. The tour comes just days after voters across the country listed health care as a top issue in the midterm elections.

“Voters of every political stripe spoke loudly and clearly that they want quality health care. The Affordable Care Act is now irrevocably woven into the fabric of America,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “We are not going back to the days when health insurance companies were allowed to turn people away because of a pre-existing condition. Instead, we are looking forward to strengthening a system that is working and building on the historic gains we have made.”

The 10-day, 23-stop kickoff tour will travel more than 1,600 miles in November. The tour will begin in Sacramento and travel to Oakland, San Jose, Salinas, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Desert, Riverside, Bakersfield, Fresno and San Francisco.

The tour will feature individuals who have been enrolled through Covered California since the exchange first opened its doors. Local dance crews will also be depicting the idea that life can change in an instant, which ties to Covered California’s award-winning advertising campaign that features ads showing individuals slipping down stairs, falling off a ladder, getting in a bicycle accident and cutting one’s hand in the kitchen.

“We know that life can change in an instant, and it’s important to have health coverage when it does,” Lee said. “Dance transcends culture, language and age. These performances from around the state will help Covered California encourage enrollment using a medium that resonates with Californians.”

The first dance on the tour will be performed by Rob Schultz’s Sacramento Crew. Schultz is an internationally known choreographer whose work has been featured in television, film, commercials, tours, award shows and live events. In addition to his extensive portfolio, Schultz is a former Covered California consumer whose coverage gave him the freedom to focus on his work. Watch Schultz’s story here.

In addition to the live performances during the bus tour, the dances will be captured on video and shared through social media and on Covered California’s website.

“Californians will be able to share these dramatic performances with their family and friends,” Lee said. “We hope the videos spark conversations and get people interested in seeing how affordable it can be to get quality coverage.”

Affordable Coverage

Covered California also launched a new ad campaign that began airing Thursday. The television and radio spots center on how affordable coverage can be and urge consumers to see what they would pay for a health plan. Current enrollees getting financial help pay less than $5 per day for their health insurance.

“New research shows that four out of five of the uninsured consumers we surveyed, who are eligible for financial help, either do not know or do not think they qualify,” Lee said. “You can get a quote within a minute by using our Shop and Compare Tool, so even if you have checked before, check again and do not leave money on the table.”

While each situation is different depending on a consumer’s income, one out of every three Covered California consumers could purchase a Silver plan — which provides the best overall value — for $50 or less per month. Nearly three out of five consumers could get a Silver plan for $100 or less per month.

Even consumers who currently purchase their coverage off-exchange directly from a health carrier could benefit from financial help through Covered California. Two recent analyses estimated that roughly 30 percent of consumers enrolled in off-exchange coverage are potentially eligible for financial help that would lower the cost of their net premiums.

California's total ACA-compliant individual market is roughly 2.1 million people, of which roughly 780,000 are enrolled off-exchange. That means there's around 230,000 Californians currently paying full price for fully ACA-compliant policies who could be saving thousands of dollars for the exact same (or similar) policies!

Granted, not all of them would be eligible for various reasons, and the policies wouldn't be exactly the same or have the same networks in some cases, making this impractical for some enrollees, but I have to imagine that the number of Californians leaving money on the table for no reason is 150,000 at a minimum.

For that matter, assuming that 30% figure is representative across every state, that suggests that there are over 1 million people nationally currently enrolled in off-exchange ACA-compliant policies who would be receiving substantial tax credits if they enrolled in the same/similar policies via their ACA exchange.

The Remaining Uninsured

Since first opening its doors in 2014, Covered California has helped cut the state’s uninsured rate to a historic low of 6.8 percent. New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows there are an estimated 2.7 million remaining uninsured consumers in California. However, an estimated 59 percent of the remaining uninsured are not eligible for coverage due to their immigration status. When you take that into account, roughly 1.1 million Californians are currently eligible for coverage in Covered California or Medi-Cal.

They don't break out the 1.1 million by how many are eligible for private ACA exchange policies vs. Medi-Cal (aka Medicaid), nor do they specify how many of them would qualify for financial subsidies if they did enroll. Still handy info, though.

“Nine out of ten Covered California consumers receive financial help, which saves them an average of 80 percent off the price of their coverage,” Lee said. “The savings mean more money in your pocket and peace of mind for you and your family.”

Life Can Change in an Instant

Covered California data also shows that when life does change in an instant, it can be extremely costly.

In 2017, Covered California consumers were protected from a wide variety of medical claims: More than 11,000 were diagnosed with either breast, lung or prostate cancer; 22,000 consumers fractured, dislocated or sprained their arm or shoulder; nearly 3,000 suffered a lower back injury and 1,600 were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes with complications.

“Life can change in an instant, and Covered California members were protected from medical bills that totaled in the tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars,” Lee said. “No one wants to face a million-dollar medical bill alone, which is why you need health insurance, and a plan through Covered California to protect you and your family when you need it.”

Five Years Strong

As Covered California prepares to enter its sixth year as a marketplace offering affordable health insurance for Californians, long-term enrollees say the effect of the coverage has been life-changing. Those enrollees will be featured at events across the state and highlighted at bus stops during the open-enrollment tour.

Among the five-year enrollees are:

  • A Sacramento man who was born with a heart condition. While his pre-existing condition never caused him any issues, it prevented him from getting health insurance.
  • An Oakland woman who says Covered California saved the lives of her four children, who have health conditions including asthma to autism.
  • A Los Angeles-area woman who runs a thriving marshmallow-manufacturing business. She followed her dream to start the business only because she was able to buy health insurance on the individual market. Before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, she was not eligible due to a pre-existing condition.
  • A business owner who operates a collision-repair shop in Pleasanton. He decided to get health insurance for his employees through Covered California for Small Business. He said this employee coverage helps him attract and retain the best workers.

Getting Help Enrolling

Consumers will need to sign up by Dec. 15 in order to have their coverage begin on Jan. 1, 2019. Enrollment will continue through Jan. 15.

Those interested in learning more about their coverage options should go to www.CoveredCA.com, where they can get help to enroll. They can explore their options and find out if they qualify for financial help by using the Shop and Compare Tool. They can also get free and confidential enrollment assistance by visiting www.coveredca.com/find-help/ and searching among 700 storefronts statewide or 16,000 certified enrollers who can assist consumers in understanding their choices and enrolling, including individuals who can assist in other languages. In addition, consumers can reach the Covered California service center by calling (800) 300-1506.