Exchange Announces Its Enrollment Goals

by David Gorn

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Yesterday, Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange, announced its projection of success -- the target number of Californians it wants to enroll in the first phase of the exchange.

"Our goal is to have 500,000 to 700,000 subsidy-eligible Californians enrolled in the exchange by April 1, [2014]," Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, said.

Lee spoke at yesterday's board meeting of Covered California, which will begin enrollment Oct. 1.

Coverage for early enrollees would not start until Jan. 1, 2014. The end of the first insurance enrollment period for the exchange will be April 1, 2014.

"What will success look like?" Lee asked. "Well, our goal is to insure absolutely everyone. But we know we won't have everyone signed up on Day One or even over the first year."

Signing up more than half a million people in that first enrollment period is an ambitious goal, Lee said, but it's reachable.

"In the near term, we have identified for the first time what [success] means for our open enrollment effort," Lee said. "Those are big numbers, they are big goals." But really, he said: "Our goal is to blow the roof off all of these estimates."

When discussing the breakdown of Californians eligible for subsidies, Medi-Cal benefits and other financial breaks, Lee said:

  • 2.6 million will be eligible for premium assistance, as the core target group for Covered California;
  • 1.4 million will be newly eligible for Medi-Cal under the expansion, which initially will be fully funded with federal dollars; and
  • 2.7 million will not be eligible for subsidies but will have guaranteed access to insurance because of new consumer protections.

About 600,000 of those newly eligible for Medi-Cal benefits currently are enrolled in the Low Income Health Program, said Toby Douglas, director of the state's Department of Health Care Services.

"On the eve of this starting point before 2014, I wanted to stress how important this partnership is between the Department of Health Care Services and Covered California," he said.

"On the Medi-Cal front, there's a lot we're excited about. About 600,000 people will be enrolled on Day One into Medi-Cal" through the LIHP effort, Douglas said. "In addition, we expect to have express-lane enrollment to people on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and other programs."

Lee said the exchange expects little actual enrollment in October, as the word about the exchange is just getting out. However, he expects enrollment to pick up quickly in November and December.

"We're excited about what we're launching in less than two weeks," Lee said.

Like any big effort, though, it's a work in progress, he said.

"The real test comes when people have to use it, so if something s not working, please let us know," Lee said. "Go ugly earlier, and let us work through the issues. We want to correct things in real time."


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