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Covered California Health Care Program Extends Deadline

Covered California is the state's online health insurance exchange.
Covered California
Covered California is the state's online health insurance exchange.
Covered California Health Care Program Extends Deadline
Covered California Health Care Program Extends Deadline GUEST: Peter Lee, executive director, Covered California

Our top story the new is full of legislation but in spite of the political battle over the affordable healthcare act, people are signing up for covered California this year. Peter Lee is with us to talk about why that is and the deadline to enroll. This year the federal government cut the enrollment period in half for those signing up and they have cut advertising. How is this affecting enrollment?It's important to note that with the federal government is doing and what the 35 federal marketplace states. Those are states that did not set up their own market place -- marketplace. We kept a three month open enrollment period and we've never relied in the last 2+ years on any federal funds from market. We are investing more in marketing. We are spending over $100 million in California to get the word out and it is because getting the word out gets more people signed up which lowers a premium for everybody. It's a really good investment. We are seeing the results. We are seeing high enrollment and because of that we extended our deadline.Wind is the deadline?This is for coverage to start January 1. It was last Friday but we moved it to this coming Friday on December 22. If you sign up anytime this week, you can have coverage that goes live January 1. We will be open in January and try to get people enrolled, but if you sign up in January, you will have coverage until February 1 or March 1. Every day you go without coverage, you roll the dice. We step back and said what can we do given the fact that we've had as of middle of last week over 182,000 Californians newly signed up and huge volumes. Every day last week we wanted to make sure we kept the doors open.So how does that compare to last year?Last year over 50% higher enrollment than last year for newly enrolled people. That is on top of about 1.2 million who renewed their coverage. This is a big coverage and working well in California because were try to make sure that everyone gets a word and we signed up young and healthy. We signed up older ones and sick ones. Getting as many people were getting premiums down. Pima County people to have to sign up?We don't have a goal. We have a projection that we think will hopefully be around 400,000 newly enrolled people in this open enrollment period.Talk about the premiums this year? What do they look like here in San Diego county?There is two things to be very clear about his first, 85% of the people that get coverage through Covered California get financial help to get their insurance. For those people, which is the vast majority of people that are enrolled, their cost of healthcare is going down in 2018. There are quite a people that don't get subsidies. For them, on average premiums went up 10%. 10% increases pay in comparison to these nightmare stories of premium skyrocketing in double-digit numbers not happening in California.Are you finding that people are confused? How much it has the Trump administration's attempt to dismantle Covered California affected your efforts to get people to sign up?There has been some confusion. And maybe that in the end that's been to the vantage of Californians because we've had a lot of people call and say are my subsidies going away?We are open for business. Were going strong. Anything you sign up for you are locked in to have at the rates you get for all of 2018.So since the rollout of the Affordable Care Act back in 2014, how much has it reduced the and insurers in California?It had a huge impact on all Californians. Back before the Affordable Care Act, the uninsured rate in California was over 17%. This year it's down to 620%. Of them about half are eligible for coverage. What that means is the rate of uninsured that are eligible about three and half %. That's approaching universal coverage.Let's talk about the individual mandate because this tax bill being hammered out includes a provision that would repeal the vigil mandate. If that is repealed, what effects would that have on individual healthcare markets in California?Let me remind you that the tax bill if it repeals individual mandate that's for 2019. That mandate or penalty first it only applies if you can afford health insurance coverage and choose not to get it. There's thousands that pay the penalty but for and everybody happy the penalty, there are two people that are exempt from the penalty because it would cost much. It is not something that is forcing people to signing up for something they could not afford but if it goes away premiums will go out -- up.We don't know what the impact is going to be until we see the next showed a drop. Senator conditions of supporting the Republican tax bill said the only way she was support the repeal of the mandate is to have full on legislation that would provide something called reinsurance. It is a mechanism to lower insurance costs. If that is passed in the coming month, the impact on the premiums of the mandate going away could be dramatically mitigated and a lot less. Until we see that, we will not know. The other piece here in California we will be out there the time in 2019. The penalty is that the secret sauce. It is a financial help. Is the fact that we have millions of Californians who for the first time can afford health insurance. People want health insurance, if they can afford it. Our main response is like the legislative's of California talk and think about what they can do as legislators . We will be out there pounding the drums saying leaving good insurance on the table that you can afford is bad math and getting insurance is the best thing you can do and I'm pretty optimistic that we will do a lot to counterbalance the potential going away.So for those who don't qualify for a subsidy, do you have any advice for them?If you're not eligible for subsidy, go to covered CA.com. We can still compare the plans available for you. If you're thinking about silver plan you want to buy direct from a healthcare company not the U.S. because we put a search -- surcharge on her plans to cover a subsidy available to California for lower income individuals. This is a time when I tell consumers we are not the right place to buy if you are going to get a subsidy and you want a silver plan, buy direct from Kaiser are direct from Blue Shield of California. The other thing is you have to shop around. You can get savings of 10 to 50% depending on which plan you choose. By going to the website you might not end up buying with us but you will be able to see if your doctor is in which health plan. We have our shop and compare tool that says this to your doctors and you can see which health plans that Doctor or doctors are in.Thank you so much for helping us understand this issue.My pleasure. I hope folks understand that they have until Friday to sign up for coverage that goes live on January 1. We want to leave no one behind in California.That is Peter Lee head of Covered California.

Covered California Health Care Program Extends Deadline
A surge in enrollment has prompted Covered California to extend its deadline for those wanting to buy health care.

The number of people enrolling in a Covered California health plan this season remains ahead of last year’s pace.

As a result, the exchange has decided to give consumers a little more time to sign up.

So far this season, enrollment in Covered California is up 17 percent compared to the same time last year.

Last Friday was the deadline for people to sign up for coverage that would begin Jan. 1. But high demand has prompted the exchange to extend that deadline for another week.

The entire open enrollment period in much of the country was cut short this year. In contrast, Covered California’s open enrollment runs until the end of January.

Health insurance premiums have gone up. Even so, exchange officials said enrollees who get financial help are actually paying less than last year. That’s because when premiums rise, so do federal tax credits.