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Health Equity Forum: Covered California Update – January 2015
Covered California Update
Covered California held its first Board meeting of the year on January 15, 2015. The Board re-elected Secretary Dooley to serve as chair for the next term.
Covered California announced new enrollment numbers for 2015: As of January 12th, Covered California had enrolled over 228,000 new enrollees with the majority (88%) eligible for subsidies in the Exchange. Covered California continued to focus on outreach to Latinos and African Americans with Latinos representing 28% and African-Americans 3% of the total number of enrollees, the same as enrolled during the first enrollment period last year. While these numbers are trending in the right direction, they still are below the projections of the California Simulation of Insurance Markets of 33% Latinos and 6% African Americans. Whites represented 38% of enrollees followed by Asian at 19%, American Indian or Alaska Native at less than 1% and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander at less than 1%.
While enrollment is encouraging, an additional 300,000 subsidy-eligible applicants have yet to choose a plan. Latinos comprise half of this population. Covered California plans to call and email these individuals to help them complete enrollment. Covered California’s goal is to enroll 1.7 million individuals into health coverage (an additional 500,000) by the end of the open enrollment period on February 15th.
In related news, Covered California released data on the language distribution of its service center calls. The majority of calls handled are in English (82%) while the remaining 18% have been in Spanish (12-15%), Cantonese (2–5%), and Vietnamese and Mandarin (0.2-1%).
CPEHN urged Covered California to release further disaggregated data by race, ethnicity, and primary language as the current report does not break out the API categories and there is no data on languages spoken by current enrollees. We also urged Covered California to make available translated materials including a glossary of health coverage terms in threshold languages to help boost health literacy and assist with plan choice for Limited English Proficient communities. Advocates also urged Covered California to collect data on enrollee sexual orientation and gender identity.
Changes to the Navigator program: Covered California voted to reform its Navigator payment policy to take into account the quality and comprehensiveness of services provided by Assisters. Staff noted the current reimbursement system is based solely on the volume of effectuated coverage and fails to reward Assisters for providing the time-intensive culturally and linguistically appropriate assistance needed to encourage new enrollees to apply and enroll into coverage. CPEHN and Assisters organizations including Asian Americans Advancing Justice, California Coverage and Health Initiatives, Community Health Councils, and Vision y Compromiso supported this proposal.
Other policy changes: In other news, the Board voted to approve the proposed 2016 standard benefit designs for Qualified Health Plans in the Exchange. These designs were arrived at through a transparent consumer process led by Consumers Union and Health Access and will help ensure that health coverage options in 2016, particularly Bronze and Silver levels, are easier to use and understand. One remaining issue is how to ensure QHPs are providing the appropriate mix specialty drugs, particularly for the chronically ill. Covered California announced the formation of an ad hoc committee to make recommendations to ensure consumers can access the appropriate medications. Staff also notified the Board of changes it hopes to make to the Certified Application Counselor Program and Medi-Cal Managed Care Enrollment Program regulations to be voted on at the next meeting, which is scheduled for Thursday March 5th at Covered California’s Headquarters in Sacramento.