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KPBS Midday Edition

Despite Possibility Of Repeal, People Continue To Sign Up For Insurance Through ACA

A Covered California sign is shown on the door of a La Mesa insurance agent's business, April 9, 2016.
Laura Wingard
A Covered California sign is shown on the door of a La Mesa insurance agent's business, April 9, 2016.

Despite Possibility Of Repeal, People Continue To Sign Up For Insurance Through ACA
San Diego Public Library Highlights Banned Books By Reading Censored Books Aloud GUEST:James Scullary, spokesman, Covered California

Covered California urges people to sign up tonight's help line. It's coverage is guaranteed all year. This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh it is Tuesday, January 31. Our top story on midday edition it's an uncertain time to sign up the affordable care act health exchanges but that has not stopped people from doing so. The sign up deadline for 2017 is at midnight tonight and despite moves in Congress to dismantle the program eight .8 million people have signed up for this year's coverage which is slightly more than last year. Covered California is urging people to get coverage before today's deadline. Health coverage with plans and prices locked in place no matter what through the end of the year. Joining me as James Scolari with covered California. Welcome to the program. Thank you for having me. I spoke about enrollment numbers nationwide despite plans to repeal the affordable care act how is enrollment going for covered California. Through January 24 we had had about 327,000 new enrollees sign up for coverage during the current open enrollment. And that is roughly in line with what we saw last year. Enrollment remains strong and people remain very interested in getting quality healthcare coverage for themselves and their family. Covered California recently commissioned an online survey to find out people's concerns about health insurance. What did people say they were most concerned about. Despite all the chatter and noise we hear coming out of Washington the main thing that is on people's mind is the affordability of healthcare. As you know healthcare coverage can be expensive which is why it is so critical that the financial help that consumers can get through covered California is able to bring that healthcare within reach. Affordability is the number one issue and that's one reason why we are out encouraging able to take a look at their plant and find out if they qualify for the financial help which is something that about 90% of our consumers do they receive some level of financial assistance to bring the healthcare within reach. Obviously many people are concerned about the move to repeal the ACA. Officials have been speaking about the consequences. Does covered California have contingency plans in the works if the Republican Congress to meet dismantles at the ACA. That is hard to say at this point because there's so much discussion going on we are not sure the impact of anyone. What we are focused on right now is the open enrollment period which he mentioned open -- ends at midnight tonight and we encourage people to sign up they can do it online and they can contact the call center at 800 300 1506 they can go online and click on the button that says free help to enroll and find somebody that is trained and certified in their neighborhood who can sit down with them and explain their options. We are really focused on the open enrollment. I'm getting people in the door. We are making the commitment to our consumers that if something happens at the federal level that impacts the coverage we will be sure to let them know. Is there any concern that may send a message to lawmakers before they do something drastic to the ACA? I think what this shows is that healthcare is really important for people. Is never one of those things that you think you may need but change can happen quick and in the blink of an eye you may have an accident or get a diagnosis and healthcare coverage allows you to protect your family and yourself from some really astronomical bills. That is really what I see from this is that people know that healthcare coverage is important and that it is something that now that they have hadn't been able to variance for a few years to do something that they are really seeking. The Trump administration pull television ads that encouraged people to sign up for insurance under the affordable care act. Did you see an impact in California? The reason for that is that covered California really embrace the affordable care act as soon as it was passed. We were the first state to form an exchange after the law passed. We done everything under our own roof. Were in charge of our own marketing we promote our own ad we were on behalf of Californians across the state working to find them the best value from quality health care plans and we have been doing this from day one so the ads that were pulled were more of the federal level and the states that rely on healthcare.gov it's their online portal for enrollment and we have covered CA.com our consumers can go to sign up and we've had that since day one. Even if the affordable care act is repealed -- I pointed out in the opening can you explain it a little bit more? People that sign up midnight are still guaranteed coverage. Is that right? Yes and I do have a little bit of an addendum there. What we typically see this time of year is that Californians wait till the last minute. We see that right before December 15 which is the deadline that consumers have to get coverage that starts at the earliest possible time on January 1 and we see that at the very end of open enrollment. So what we have done is if consumers can't start the application and begin the process or get an appointment with a certified insurance agent or enrollment counselor by today then we will give them through February 4 to complete the application and get across the finish line but they need to start the process before midnight today. And plans and prices are locked in place for this entire year. That's correct and that the contract that we had with our health carriers so those are in effect and the rates will not change for 2017 and we are looking ahead to 2018 and beyond where there are not any changes that I made and how this will impact our consumers. I've been speaking with James Scolari with covered California. Thank you so much.

Despite plans by President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, enrollment in health insurance under the act hasn't slowed down.

More than 8.8 million Americans signed up for 2017 coverage through HealthCare.gov as of Jan. 14. That's slightly more than last year. And the number doesn't include people who signed up under state plans like Covered California.

RELATED: Last Chance To Sign Up For Obamacare, For 2017 And Maybe Forever

More than 320,000 Californians had newly enrolled in health insurance through Covered California between Nov. 1 and Jan. 23, which was similar to last year's numbers.

“Despite all the chatter we hear and noise we hear coming out of Washington, the main thing that is on people's mind is the affordability of health care,” said James Scullary, a spokesman for Covered California. “Health care coverage can be expensive which is why it’s so critical that the financial help that consumers can get through Covered California is able to bring that health care within reach."

Tuesday at midnight is the deadline to enroll in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have promised to repeal and replace the Obama-era law, but without creating disruptions for millions already covered.

"We’re really focused on the open enrollment period and getting people in the door," Scullary said. "We are making the commitment to our consumers that if something does happen at the federal level that impacts our coverage, then we will be sure to let them know."

Californians can visit CoveredCa.com or call 1-800-300-1506 to enroll, Scullary said.

Scullary joins Midday Edition on Tuesday to talk about the health insurance through Covered California.

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