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Health Equity Forum: Covered California Update – March 2015

Covered California Update

Covered California concluded its second open enrollment period in February, with close to 500,000 new enrollees. An additional 780,000 individuals enrolled in Medi-Cal pushed the total number of people newly enrolled to 1,274,073. Enrollment for young adults rose from 12% to 13% for enrollees aged 18-25 and 17% to 21% for enrollees aged 26 to 34. Latinos represented 37% of new enrollees, up from 31% at the end of the last open enrollment period. African-American enrollment represented 4%, up from 3% last year. Enrollment for Asian and Pacific Islander communities declined from 23% to 18%, which is slightly below the projected 21%. CPEHN and other advocates have urged Covered California to release disaggregated data on race, ethnicity, and language as well as geographic region, plan selection, and metal tiers so we can assess how well Covered California is reaching diverse communities in different parts of the state. In other enrollment news, almost all of those previously enrolled in Covered California renewed their health coverage (92% or 944,000). 

On March 5th, Governor Jerry Brown announced the appointment of two new Covered California Board members to replace the departing members, Kim Belshé and Susan Kennedy. The first appointee, Genoveva Islas-Hooker, is the program director at the Public Health Institute’s Cultiva La Salud and the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program. She is also Board Chair for CPEHN’s ethnic partner organization, the Latino Coalition for a Healthy California. The second appointee is Marty Morgernstern, who served as Secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency and has also consulted with the University of California on labor relations. He has been a senior advisor to the Governor’s office since 2013. They both start their terms in April.

In exciting news, Jonathan Tran, California Policy and Advocate Manager for the Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) has been hired as the new Health Equity Officer at Covered California effective April 1st. CPEHN and other advocates had urged Covered California to create this new position which will provide leadership to the exchange on strategies and best practices to achieve its mission of equitable access to all Californians. In related news, Covered California is also hiring two new research program specialists based in Sacramento to analyze enrollee and claims data by demographic information as part of their efforts to reduce health disparities. A job description is available on their website.

At its recent board meeting, Covered California reported on the progress of its stakeholder workgroup on specialty drug issues for its insurance products in 2016 and future years. Advocates urged Covered California to ensure consumers have access to specialty drugs across metal tiers, and urged additionally that there be a monthly cap on drug costs so that consumers are not charged the full amount up front. Covered California has promised to revisit this issue in the coming months.

Finally, Covered California is conducting regional meetings with Certified Enrollment Counselors (CECs) to solicit feedback on their outreach and enrollment experiences during the second open enrollment period. CECs have reported difficulty in meeting enrollment targets during this second round of enrollment. Part of the problem is that the remaining uninsured are harder to reach than earlier populations and thus require more time to enroll. Data from these meetings will be used to revamp the program ahead of the third open enrollment period. The next Covered California meeting is scheduled for April 16th.