Obamacare

The Affordable Care Act takes full effect on January 1, 2014. Will California be ready?

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Immigrants Scramble to Prove Eligibility for Covered California

A report from Berkeley's Greenlining Institute called on Covered California to make its enrollment website available in more languages than English and Spanish.

(Screen shot from the Spanish-language version of the Covered California website.)

By Daniela Hernandez, Kaiser Health News

When Fabrizio Mancinelli applied for health insurance through California’s online marketplace nine months ago, he ran into a frustrating snag.

The deadline is midnight, Tuesday, for those who were notified to provide documents proving their legal status.

An Italian composer and self-described computer geek, Mancinelli said he was surprised to find there wasn’t a clear way to upload a copy of his O-1 visa. The document, which grants temporary residency status to people with extraordinary talents in the sciences and arts, was part of his proof to the government that he was eligible for coverage.

So, the 35-year-old Sherman Oaks resident wrote in his application that he’d be happy to send along any further documentation. Continue reading

Covered California Launches 2015 Outreach Campaign

Covered California executive director Peter Lee, seen here at a November, 2013, press conference. (Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

Covered California executive director Peter Lee, seen here at a November, 2013, press conference. (Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, kicked off its marketing and outreach campaign Monday for the upcoming 2015 open enrollment period. Officials say they forecast enrolling 1.7 million people, about 500,000 more than are presently signed up.

Peter Lee, the agency’s executive director, acknowledged the work ahead. “It won’t be easy,” he said. “In many ways, it will be harder than last year.”

For starters, the next open enrollment runs three months compared to last year’s six month period when more than three million people signed up either for Covered California or to Medi-Cal, the state’s version of Medicaid. Continue reading

Remaining Uninsured Face Challenges in Cost and Simply Signing Up

Leaburn Alexander works two jobs and does not have health insurance. Here, he is on the start of his 3-hour commute home from the job he works as an overnight hotel janitor. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

Leaburn Alexander works two jobs and does not have health insurance. Here, he is on the start of his 3-hour commute home from the job he works as an overnight hotel janitor. (Lisa Morehouse/KQED)

By Lisa Morehouse

When the Affordable Care Act rolled out last fall, Californians enrolled in both Covered California and expanded Medi-Cal in high numbers. But there are still millions in the state without health insurance. Undocumented people don’t qualify for Obamacare benefits. Many others still find coverage too expensive, or face other obstacles in enrolling.

One of those people is Leaburn Alexander. I meet up with him at 6 a.m. as he is finishing his shift as the night janitor at a hotel near the San Francisco Airport. He clocks out just in time to catch the hotel’s shuttle back to SFO, where he will catch a bus.

“Right now I’m on the beginning of my commute,” he tells me. “After an eight hour shift, my commute is like 2 and a half hours.”

I accompany Alexander on his commute to East Palo Alto, about 20 miles south. It actually takes three hours, on the hotel shuttle plus three more buses. He does this commute 5 days a week. Continue reading

Covered California Income Verifications Lead to Canceled Coverage

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

By Judy Lin, Associated Press

Some Californians who purchased individual health coverage through the state’s insurance exchange are suddenly being dropped or transferred to Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program for the poor that fewer doctors and providers accept.

Covered California, which is responsible for determining and directing Californians to an appropriate health plan, has no estimate of how many people are affected, saying only that the changes are occurring as incomes are checked to verify the policyholders can purchase insurance through the exchange.

Since the shifts often happen without warning, there’s confusion and anger among policyholders.

Glendale resident Andrea Beckum learned last month that she and her husband had been shunted to Medi-Cal only after getting a call from their insurance broker telling them their Anthem Blue Cross policy had been canceled. Continue reading

Legal Threat to Obamacare Diminished After Court Action

by Mark Sherman
Associated Press

The federal appeals court in Washington threw out a ruling Thursday that called into question the subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums under the president’s health care law.

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange on October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange on October 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted an Obama administration request to have its full complement of judges re-hear a challenge to regulations that allow health insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states.

The announcement diminishes the prospect of Supreme Court review of the issue in the near term. The initial 2-1 appeals court ruling in Washington came out the same day that a panel of appellate judges in Richmond, Virginia, unanimously sided with the administration on the same issue.

The health law’s opponents had hoped that the split rulings would lead the high court to take up the issue soon. Continue reading

People Found Ineligible for Obamacare Coverage Must Repay Subsidies

A report from Berkeley's Greenlining Institute called on Covered California to make its enrollment website available in more languages than English and Spanish.

The rule primarily affects immigrants. Many people have not provided sufficient documentation to prove lawful presence or citizenship in California.

By Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News

Consumers getting government subsidies for health insurance who are later found ineligible for those payments will owe the government, but not necessarily the full amount, according to the Treasury Department.

100,000 Californians must provide proof of legal residency or lose eligibility for subsidies.

The clarified rule could affect some of the 300,000 people enrolled in a health plan through healthcare.gov. They face a Sept. 5 deadline to submit additional documents to confirm their citizenship or immigration status, and also apply broadly to anyone ultimately deemed ineligible for subsidies.

California runs its own exchange and is on a different timeline. Covered California will send notices starting next week to 100,000 people affected. They have until September 30 to respond.  Continue reading

Covered California to Request Evidence of Lawful Presence in U.S.

CCHP enrollment counselor Kristen Chow explains Covered California and federal subsidies to a Chinese-language caller. Currently, more than 90 percent of the HMO's members are ethnically Chinese. (Marcus Teply/KQED)

CCHP enrollment counselor explains Covered California and federal subsidies to a caller. (Marcus Teply/KQED)

Some enrollees who get their health insurance through Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, will be getting notices in the next few weeks requesting evidence that they are lawfully in the country.

Yesterday, many news outlets reported on the Obama administration’s announcement that it was sending letters to about 310,000 people who have signed up for insurance through the Affordable Care Act, but whose documentation of citizenship or legal immigration status was at odds with government records. From the Wall Street Journal:

The Obama administration moved Tuesday to cut off health insurance for up to 310,000 people who signed up through the HealthCare.gov system unless they can provide documents in the next few weeks showing they are U.S. citizens or legal residents.

Those individuals have until Sept. 5 to send in additional information that could confirm they are in the U.S. legally, a condition of using the online insurance exchanges to obtain coverage.

Continue reading

Obamacare: With One-Third of Californians Now on Medi-Cal, Can State Manage?

By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News

California is coming face to face with the reality of one of its biggest Obamacare successes: the explosion in Medi-Cal enrollment.

The numbers — 2.2 million enrollees since January — surprised health care experts and created unforeseen challenges for state officials. Altogether, there are now about 11 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries, constituting nearly 30 percent of the state’s population.

That has pushed the public insurance program into the spotlight, after nearly 50 years as a quiet mainstay of the state’s health care system, and it has raised concerns about California’s ability to meet the increased demand for health care.

Even as sign-ups continue, state health officials are struggling to figure out how to serve a staggering number of Medi-Cal beneficiaries while also improving their health and keeping costs down. Many are chronically ill and have gone without insurance or regular care for years, and some new enrollees have higher expectations than in the past.  Continue reading

On California Exchange, Only Kaiser’s Rates Will Go Down in 2015

Kaiser Permanente's lower rates on the California health exchange for 2015 may be meant to attract customers. (Ted Eytan/Flickr)

Kaiser Permanente’s lower rates on the California health exchange for 2015 may be meant to attract customers. (Ted Eytan/Flickr)

As all the other health insurers on California’s Obamacare exchange raise their rates for next year, Kaiser Permanente plans to lower them.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a new analysis by Citigroup shows Kaiser’s premiums dropping by 1.4 percent in 2015.

At the same time, the average premium across all plans on the Covered California exchange will rise 4.2 percent.

Citigroup health care analyst Carl McDonald told the Times he thinks Kaiser’s move is meant to draw customers: Continue reading

California’s 2015 Obamacare Premiums Will Increase Modestly

Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

Screen shot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.

Officials with Covered California, the state’s Obamacare marketplace, say premiums will go up an average 4.2 percent statewide in 2015 for the 1.4 million Californians currently enrolled in insurance through the exchange.

Peter Lee, executive director of the agency, was clearly delighted. “This is good news for Californians,” he said, “and an example of how Covered California and the Affordable Care Act are working to make health insurance affordable.”

Lee said premiums would vary by people’s age and where they live in California. Californians will have a choice of plans from the state’s four major insurers: Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Kaiser and Health Net — as well as six regional players: Chinese Community Health Plan, L.A. Care, Molina Healthcare, Sharp Health Care, Valley Health Care and Western Health Advantage.

Lee said that for the million-plus people currently insured through the exchange:

  • 16 percent: will see rates remain stable or go down
  • 35 percent: will see premiums increase 1-5 percent
  • 36 percent: will see increases of 5-8 percent
  • 13 percent: will see increases over 8 percent, some as high as 15 percent

Continue reading