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625,000 Enrolled in Health Exchange

Covered California officials yesterday said more than half a million Californians signed up for exchange coverage that started Jan. 1 and about three-fourths of them have paid their premiums and are officially receiving coverage through the exchange.

About 85% of the new enrollees are eligible for subsidies, according to Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California.

“For those who are not subsidy-eligible, they don’t have to go through the exchange, they can enroll right now in the individual market,” Lee said. “We know that hundreds of thousands [of Californians] are getting coverage directly from health plans rather than going through the exchange.”

Enrollment numbers for the first two weeks of January bring the total to 625,000 Californians who have enrolled for coverage through the exchange.

In the rush toward the Jan. 1 deadline 630,000 Californians were added to Medi-Cal through the Low Income Health Program and another 584,000 were determined to be eligible for Medi-Cal through the exchange portal bringing the total of newly covered Californians to 1.7 million. That number does not include January exchange enrollees or individual signups outside the exchange.

Those are marks of real success, Lee said.

“We know it’s going to take a big lift, and we’re just at the beginning, in the middle of our first open enrollment period,” Lee said. “This is just the start. But we’re optimistic, we’re in a good place.”

Lee did not have specific numbers for the number of Jan. 1 coverage enrollees who actually paid their premium, but in general terms said it was “about three-quarters” of all enrollees.

The grand total, Lee said, was 500,108 Californians who successfully enrolled in the exchange in time to receive coverage Jan. 1. Three-quarters of those enrollees, or roughly 375,000 of them, have paid their premiums and are actually covered now, he said.

Some of those enrollees might still be able to pay the premium in time to receive January 2014 coverage, Lee said, because a couple of health plans have extended the deadline for paying premiums to the end of January.

Three health plans — Contra Costa Health Plan, Chinese Community Health Plan and Western Health Advantage — now accept premium payments during enrollment, rather than forcing new members to wait to be billed and mail in a check.

“It’s much easier for people to pay right out of the gate,” Lee said.

Lee said he hopes to release health plan numbers next month showing how many Californians signed up outside the exchange.

Lee said those who enrolled but missed their deadline for premium payment will not need to start over.

“If people want coverage,” Lee said, “we don’t want people to go back to zero. We will carry over those applications to February [and beyond].”

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