(David McNew/Getty Images)
By Sara Hossaini
Just two days after President Obama called for voting reforms, the National Commission on Voting Rights met in San Francisco to get an overview of elections and voting in the U.S.
The hearing is part of a national fact-finding effort that will inform a report to be presented to the U.S. congress in the spring addressing barriers to voter participation across the country.
So what’s a voting rights story doing on a health blog? Thursday’s panels and public testimony included voter rights advocates who say Covered California is falling down on its legal duty to give users an opportunity to register to vote. The 1993 “motor voter act” requires that any agency that provides public assistance, including the DMV — and now, Covered California — offer voter registration to the public. Continue reading
Plans are rated with 1-4 stars, with 4 being high. (screenshot from Covered California)
Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
Californians shopping for insurance policies through the state’s online marketplace can now compare plans based on customer quality ratings as well as cost.
Covered California assigned star ratings to the health plans based on member survey responses. Each health insurance plan is compared with results of other plans across the western United States. The surveys were taken before the insurance marketplace opened, so they only compare plans that had a track record beforehand.
The ratings cover such topics as access to medical appointments, customer service and the quality of medical care and are from the federal government’s Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems.
Consumers can purchase individual policies through the exchange and many are eligible for financial help paying their premiums. For coverage this year, they have until March 31 to enroll. Continue reading
Covered California says that yesterday was the deadline to pay your February premiums. But some of California’s biggest insurers have extended their deadlines.
Here are new dates for three major carriers:
- Blue Shield: deadline is Friday, Feb. 14 for people who signed up for coverage starting Feb. 1.
- HealthNet: For people who signed up for coverage beginning Feb. 1, you have until Feb 15 to make your first premium payment. You can pay by phone. Continue reading
Screenshot from CoveredCA.com, the website of Covered California.
“Forgive me for intruding upon your personal email,” Jill Bond wrote me earlier this month.
Bond emailed that she had heard me on KQED’s “Forum” discussing Covered California, and then when a post from me popped up on our neighborhood listserv, she put two and two together and reached out for help. In the months since the Covered California marketplace opened, I have fielded a lot of inquiries from friends and colleagues. I emailed Bond back right away.
Even if you have COBRA now, the only way to enroll in a plan with a subsidy is to say you don’t.
Bond told me she had enrolled in a Covered California plan but didn’t understand where her subsidy was. When she had reviewed her options for Covered California, the “shop and compare” calculator indicated that she qualified for a subsidy — close to $300 — but when she actually enrolled, the subsidy was not applied.
And Bond definitely needs the coverage. In 2010, Bond was treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While she’s cancer-free now, the aggressive chemotherapy damaged her immune system. She says she needs monthly infusions of antibodies to keep her healthy. The treatment is called IVIG, and it costs a small fortune — more than $8,000 a month, Bond said. Continue reading
By Lisa Aliferis and April Dembosky
It was a big debate last summer. While children’s dental coverage is one of the Affordable Care Act’s 10 essential health benefits, the ACA gives states the flexibility to offer the coverage in a stand alone plan. Covered California first required insurers to include children’s dental, then told them to strip out the benefit, in favor of offering stand alone plans at an additional cost.
Now the data is in. Less than one-third of enrolled children on Covered California through 2013 also has dental coverage. Executive director Peter Lee says the additional cost appears to be on issue. ”A lot of folks are low income,” he said. “They’re thinking additional coverage versus food on the table.”
Covered California’s board voted Thursday to make a change. Starting in 2015 all medical plans for children sold through the marketplace will be required to include dental coverage. Continue reading
Man sits in Skid Row area of Los Angeles. Advocates say homeless people tend to have complex health problems. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
By Anna Gorman, Kaiser Health News
On a recent winter morning, health outreach worker Christopher Mack walked through the streets and alleys of the city’s Skid Row, passing a man pulling a rusty shopping cart and a woman asleep on a crumpled blue tarp. The smell of marijuana wafted through the cold air.
“Do you have health insurance?” Mack, a towering man with long dreadlocks, asked one woman. “Do you go to the doctor?” he asked another.
Homeless men and women who didn’t qualify for insurance in the past now have the chance to sign up, and Mack — who was once homeless himself — is there to help.
The Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid to include poor people without children or disabilities who haven’t been able to get the free insurance in the past. Experts say determining how many homeless people are eligible for Medicaid is difficult but estimates range from about 500,000 to as many as 1.2 million. California is one of the 25 states (plus Washington, D.C.) that is expanding its Medicaid program, called Medi-Cal here. Continue reading
Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. (Max Whitaker/Getty Images)
In issuing a final tally of 2013 enrollment, Covered California reported Monday that 500,108 people signed up for one of its health plans. Another 125,000 people enrolled in a health plan during the first two weeks of January, said Peter Lee, executive director of the agency.
“The momentum we have from the end of last year is still going strong,” Lee said in a press conference.
At her first doctor’s appointment, she was told that the practice was not taking any Covered California plans.
Medi-Cal, California’s public health insurance program for people who are low income or disabled, also showed strong enrollment — 584,000 additional applicants to Covered California appear to be eligible. When adding that number to the 630,000 Californians who transitioned to Medi-Cal from the Low Income Health Program on Jan. 1, more than 1.2 million Californians are newly insured in Medi-Cal. “Powerful numbers,” Lee said. “We are touching millions of Californians.” Continue reading
By April Dembosky and Lisa Aliferis
If you signed up for a Covered California plan by the Dec. 23 deadline, Wednesday is the official deadline to pay your January premium.
That is, unless you are an Anthem Blue Cross or Kaiser Permanente customer — in which case you have a little more time.
- If you’re a Kaiser member, you have until Jan. 22 to pay your January premium
- If you’re an Anthem Blue Cross customer, you have until Jan. 31 (Update: On Jan. 16, HealthNet also extended its deadline to Jan. 31.)
If you’re in one of the other nine plans available statewide, you must pay your premium by midnight Wednesday night. Continue reading
As a journalist I’ve covered the Affordable Care Act on and off since it was a gleam in President Obama’s eye. The melodrama of the fierce legislative fight; the subsequent relentless attacks against it; the Supreme Court case; and the catastrophic rollout of healthcare.gov — good times for the news media, though not necessarily the American public.
My first unwelcome surprise came when I input all my information, and the system told me I wouldn’t get a subsidy despite the fact that I knew I was eligible.
But of course, the difference between covering something as a journalist and experiencing it as a citizen is substantial. Last year, in part for health reasons, I gave up my full-time job with KQED News. No more long hours: check. No more crazy deadlines: check. No more health insurance: check … my blood pressure. Because our COBRA costs were going to be astronomical, like 40-percent-of-income astronomical. And my health history rendered me uninsurable on the individual market. At least, on the old insurance market.
All of this made me one of the many poster-children for Obamacare, under which insurance companies, starting Jan. 1, would be required to insure my middle-aged ass, and the government was going to help pay for it to boot. Whether this is a victory for common sense and decency, the end of democracy as we know it, or simply a bad idea, I couldn’t say — and still can’t. I only know that the only rational financial decision, personally, was to try getting an exchange plan through Covered California. Continue reading