The board overseeing California’s health insurance exchange has voted to stick with its current approach of phasing out by year’s end health insurance policies that do not meet current benefit requirements.
The Covered California Board of Directors voted 5-0 Thursday to hold steady on its current approach, defying President Barack Obama’s recent flip on one crucial aspect of the Affordable Care Act.
Several times each week, Sharon Wilson, a 53-year-old HIV-positive retired caregiver, takes an hour-long bus ride from her Berkeley home to her clinic in downtown Oakland. Wilson doesn’t mind making the trip, because she says the care she has received there since her diagnosis has saved her life.
Wilson says multiple chronic diseases, including HIV, have made it impossible for her to work. Ensuing financial struggles make managing her disease increasingly difficult.
California has mistakenly sent letters to 246,000 low-income residents, warning they may need to find new doctors next year under the state’s newly expanded Medicaid program.
The error frustrated counties and community health centers which have repeatedly assured patients they can keep their providers when the Affordable Care Act takes effect in 2014. The patients are part of the state’s “bridge to reform” program, which was designed to cover uninsured, poor Californians until they became eligible for Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal here.
President Obama announced Thursday morning that insurance companies now have the option to offer renewals to people whose plans were cancelled.
But that doesn’t mean insurance companies are required to take the president up on his offer.
Patrick Johnston, CEO of California Association of Health Plans, said in a statement that California “needs to stay the course and transition people into the more comprehensive policies that meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.”
Bowing to pressure, President Barack Obama on Thursday announced changes to his health care law to give insurance companies the option to keep offering consumers plans that would otherwise be canceled.
The administrative changes are good for just one year, though senior administration officials said they could be extended if problems with the law persist. Obama announced the changes at the White House.
Filipino health advocates in the Bay Area are working overtime to educate the community about the Affordable Care Act and to enroll as many people as possible in California’s health insurance online marketplace before the Dec. 15 deadline.
The rollout of the state’s new exchange was accompanied by an ambitious outreach program that awarded grants to community organizations that would use their “trusted relationships” to get target populations enrolled.
Rural Californians already have challenges accessing health care and changes to Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program, could further complicate matters.
Rural areas have fewer physicians and facilities and services are spread out over greater distances than they are in urban and suburban areas. Rural areas also have a disproportionately high number of lower-income, Medi-Cal-eligible residents which creates a challenging situation for state health officials charged with providing medical coverage in rural settings.
The new health care law will provide around $1 trillion in subsidies to low- and middle-income Americans over the next decade to help them pay for health insurance.
Johanna Humbert of Galien, Mich., was pleasantly surprised to discover that she qualifies for an insurance subsidy, since her current plan is being canceled. Humbert makes about $30,000 a year, so she’ll get a subsidy of about $300 a month. The new plan is similar to her current one, but it will cost $250 — about half of what she pays now.
San Francisco architect Lee Hammack says he and his wife, JoEllen Brothers, are “cradle Democrats.” They have donated to the liberal group Organizing for America and worked the phone banks a year ago for President Obama’s re-election.
Since 1995, Hammack and Brothers have received their health coverage from Kaiser Permanente, where Brothers worked until 2009 as a dietician and diabetes educator. “We’ve both been in very good health all of our lives – exercise, don’t smoke, drink lightly, healthy weight, no health issues, and so on,” Hammack told me.
California’s insurance commissioner Dave Jones is holding a press conference Tuesday morning to announce a deal it has reached with what the press release terms a “major health insurance company” to delay the cancellation of more than 115,000 insurance policies statewide.
The San Francisco Business Times confirmed that the insurer is Blue Shield of California.