Covered Calif. Sees Enrollment Surge as Deadline Approaches
There has been a surge of enrollment through Covered California leading up to the open enrollment deadline on Monday, with nearly 80,000 residents signing up for coverage through the state insurance exchange from March 24 to March 27, the Los Angeles Times reports.
An additional 150,000 individuals created an online account and began the process of shopping for health plans on the exchange over the past three days (Terhune/Karlamangla, Los Angeles Times, 3/28).
Background on Enrollment
As of the end of February:
- Nearly one million state residents had enrolled in private coverage through the exchange;
- About 1.1 million were determined to likely qualify for Medi-Cal coverage through the exchange; and
- Hundreds of thousands of additional residents had applied for coverage but have not yet completed enrollment.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program (California Healthline, 3/14)
Last week, Covered California officials said the exchange will allow potential enrollees to finish their applications by April 15 -- provided they start the application by midnight on March 31 (Gorn, "Capitol Desk," California Healthline, 3/27).
Causes of Enrollment Surge
According to AP/U-T San Diego, increased traffic to the Covered California website last week was spurred in part by the exchange's increased outreach efforts over the past several weeks, including:
- Sending mailers;
- Placing marketing materials in barber shops and grocery stores;
- Radio and television advertisements; and
- YouTube videos.
In addition, the exchange planned more than 100 community events last weekend to help consumers enroll (Lin, AP/U-T San Diego, 3/28).
However, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said the uptick in interest in the exchange has caused the website to run "slow some of the time" (Los Angeles Times, 3/28).
Experts Tout Calif.'s ACA Successes, Note Future Concerns
Meanwhile, health care experts are touting California as a model of how the Affordable Care Act was designed to work, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said, "What California has done is kind of proof that the concept can work," but he added, "[I]t's not a guarantee that it will work everywhere.''
Levitt noted that the state was able to successfully implement the law in part because of:
- Legislation signed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) that created provisions allowing the state to get a head start on implementing the law; and
- Nearly $1 billion in federal grants to build Covered California.
However, concerns remain about the exchange's long-term potential in the state, according to the Mercury News.
Levitt noted that many questions will not be answered until after the open enrollment period ends, such as whether:
- Healthy individuals will offset the cost of sicker individuals enrolled in exchange plans;
- Insurance premiums will increase; and
- Wait times at physician offices will increase.