Health Care Reform: Recent News & Events

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Covered California Accounts for Almost 1 in 3 Obamacare Sign-ups Through November - Thursday, December 12, 2013
Source: San Francisco Business Times

December 11, 2013:

Covered California, the health exchange that handles Obamacare applications in the Golden State, has racked up nearly 1 in 3 sign ups nationwide through November, according to data released by the feds.

It signed up more than 107,000 individuals in October and November of the nearly 365,000 who signed up nationally under President Barack Obama's signature domestic program, according to a story in today's Los Angeles Times.

In addition, nearly 182,000 Californians used Covered California to enroll in Medi-Cal, California's version of the federal-state Medicaid program, the Times reported.

Despite its relative success, however, Covered California has had trouble handling a wave of applications this month, and reported a backlog of 25,000 paper forms late last week that it's asked Golden State insurance brokers to help it process. It's also released incomplete online applications to brokers so they can reach out to those would-be applicants to help them complete the forms — in many instances without getting permission first from consumers.

It's also unclear how many Californians — or Americans, for that matter — have actually obtained health insurance coverage through Covered California, the federal web site or other state exchanges, since data so far has tracked applications, not enrollment.

Still, nearly 260,000 individuals identified a private insurer from whom they would like coverage in November compared to October's nearly106,000, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The federal exchange handles applications for 36 states that elected not to run their own exchanges.

But both California and the feds have a long way to go to reach their original goals for enrollment by March 31, when the initial open enrollment period for Affordable Care Act coverage ends.

Separately, Covered California says it hopes to sign up 7,000 California small businesses and roughly 40,000 of their employees next year through its SHOP (Small Business Health Options Program), which belatedly opened for business earlier this month.

Anne Gonzales, a Covered California spokeswoman, told the Business Times last week that small businesses often (but not always, depending on renewal dates) sign up for health coverage in late November and December, "giving employers and employees the same amount of time as the current industry standard" to enroll.

But the SHOP program, originally slated to open in October along with Covered California's individual and family plan coverage, only gave would-be enrollees about a three-week window of opportunity to sign up for coverage beginning Jan. 1.

That window slams shut Dec. 23.

Covered California hasn't released any data on how many businesses and employees have applied for SHOP coverage.

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