Health Benefit Exchange


Insurance Marketplace Taking Shape: Will It Meet Needs of Latinos?

(Adrian Clark: Flickr)

(Adrian Clark: Flickr)

It’s off to the races now.

With the health overhaul (mostly) upheld by the Supreme Court, the January 1, 2014 deadline for the rollout of the Affordable Care Act is looming — in particular for the board of the Health Benefit Exchange. That’s the group tasked with developing an online marketplace where Californians will be able to buy health insurance. Yesterday, KQED’s Mina Kim attended the board’s first meeting since the ACA was upheld. Today I went to a meeting of the Latino Coalition for a Health California. It was sort of a point-counterpoint experience.

First, from Mina Kim. As she detailed on The California Report:

Hundreds of people packed the auditorium in Oakland yesterday where the Board meeting was held. At issue for many people was that health plans have a standard format so that it’s easy for consumers to compare costs and benefits.

Betsy Imholz, with the advocacy group Consumers Union, told Kim that this is a critical time for the exchange. “It’s where the rubber meets the road … figuring out what plans will be part of the exchange.” Continue reading

OK California, What The Health Exchange Means for YOU

There are the politics and the spinning. There’s the talk of improved health outcomes … and then there is the bottom line. What does this mean for the state’s consumers?

The California Health Benefit Exchangeis the most tangible institution that Californians will interact with as a result of the law. Those newly in the market to buy insurance because of ACA, this is your go to shop.  Officials estimate that’s around 3 million Californians.

“We look forward to making the purchase of insurance through California’s exchange as easy as buying a book on Amazon or shoes on Zappos,” says Peter Lee, who has been working to set up this online marketplace. Continue reading

Health Care Reform in California Brings Change and Challenge

By Christina Jewett, California Watch

(Photo: U.S. Census Bureau)

(Photo: U.S. Census Bureau)

As the second anniversary of the health care reform law approaches, California health advocates hailed the changes that have been made and those on the horizon. They also noted the difficulties for California, which is emerging as one of the most aggressive states in implementing reform.

While the Affordable Care Act has been a political hot potato in many states, it has been a catalyst for a dizzying array of reforms in California.

Changes include the creation of a health benefit “exchange” that will offer low-cost plans to millions who might be required to buy policies. Lawmakers also are busy selecting “essential benefits” that must be covered. Groups of doctors and hospitals are banding together to form accountable care organizations that are meant to cut costs and promote wellness. The Medi-Cal program has shipped cards to millions in anticipation of a massive expansion in 2014. Continue reading

How Big a Barrier is Language to Enrolling in Health Exchange?

Most health care terms are not as easily understandable as this sign. (Elliott Brown: Flickr)

For people who don't speak English well, most health care terms are not as easily understandable as this sign. (Elliott Brown: Flickr)

As policy makers work toward setting up the California Health Benefit Exchange–the marketplace where individuals and small businesses will be able to buy health insurance–they’re grappling with questions on two fronts: what benefits the policies will offer and how to ensure that people enroll. According to a new report, 2.6 million adults under age 65 will be eligible for federal tax credits to buy insurance in this new marketplace. Of those people, 67 percent will be people of color, and 40 percent (or just over one million adults) will speak English less than very well. This lack of English proficiency could be a barrier to these people enrolling in the exchange, according to the report [PDF].

Ellen Wu is Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, one of the sponsors of the report. “Language poses a barrier when people try to enroll in coverage programs,” she said in an interview. “We know that it’s just confusing for those of us who DO speak English well, and for those who have a different language other than English, it’s even more difficult to first find the materials in their language and second to understand the terminology.” Continue reading