ObamaCare Poster Child, Covered California, is failing in all Program Goals


The Golden State’s version of Obamacare has gotten more positive coverage than the federal version, but it’s hardly thriving.

Covered California’s problems start with its failure to meet the Affordable Care Act’s central goal: increasing the number of people with health insurance. Last week, Covered California reported it had signed up 625,000 residents, with about 500,000 having paid their first premium. But according to state regulators, about 1.1 million Californians had their 2013 policies canceled because they didn’t meet Obamacare standards.

Meanwhile, a national survey of insurance officials found at least two-thirds of Obamacare enrollees were people who previously had coverage. If that holds roughly true for the nation’s largest state, the Affordable Care Act’s main effect in California hasn’t been to bring coverage to the previously uninsured. It’s been to create churn in the marketplace.

There are other major problems as well. Just 15 percent of those enrolled aren’t eligible for subsidies. If that ratio continues — nearly six subsidized enrollees for every unsubsidized enrollee — then Covered California’s cost to taxpayers will explode.

And there’s reason to think the ratio will continue: More than half of the Californians without health insurance are Latinos, mostly low-income or unemployed. But they make up only one in five of those who have enrolled with the agency.

These numbers spurred sharp criticism of Covered California officials last week. The state Legislature’s Latino Caucus disputed agency claims that better marketing would sharply increase Latino participation. Critics said that wouldn’t make up for a poor Spanish-language website, weak outreach and the agency’s failure to understand the Latino community.

If Covered California corrects these problems, and Latino enrollment surges, that’s good news in terms of the agency’s goals. But then it would be more likely that the highly costly ratio of subsidized to unsubsidized enrollees continues.

So the state’s version of Obamacare has reduced the number of Californians with health insurance while doing a terrible job with the single community that was most in need of health coverage and assistance in navigating the bureaucracy to obtain it. The program also appears likely to be far more costly to taxpayers than previously estimated.

If this is an Affordable Care Act success story, that’s a profound comment on how badly the rollout is going elsewhere around the nation.

Which brings us to Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. For nearly a year, Lee has issued statement after statement depicting his agency as a shining example of brilliant governance. Last week, he finally shifted out of happy talk mode. “We have not provided good customer service,” he acknowledged.

Source: Union Tribune

We hope this candor continues, and on many other fronts. Covered California will never live up to its hype. But triage may help the agency realize its goals and limit the damage it does to taxpayers.


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