After years of planning, months of hard work and the efforts of tens of thousands of people across California, we are counting down to the final days of open enrollment. Californians have two weeks to apply and enroll in a Covered California health insurance plan, two weeks to get the affordable coverage and peace of mind they deserve, two weeks to be a part of this historic new era in health care.
Today in Stockton, we kicked off this final countdown with news of a major milestone. The number of people who have picked a Covered California health insurance plan now tops 1 million. This is an amazing accomplishment, and it means that with two weeks to go we have exceeded the highest “enhanced forecast” for the entire open-enrollment period. The health insurance companies report that more than 85 percent of those who have enrolled are paying their premium and getting coverage. That means 850,000 Californians are on their way to coverage through Covered California, which surpasses the top projection of 830,000.
This is great news for Californians who now have health insurance — insurance that has already provided life-saving treatments for some, insurance that is making a difference in the lives of others and insurance that is fair for all.
Our work is not done. We’re not stopping at 1 million, and we’re particularly focused on bolstering enrollment in the Latino and African-American communities. We’ve partnered with California civil rights icon Dolores Huerta, in our “Days of Action” campaign. She worked side by side with Cesar Chavez and spent years fighting to make sure our farmworkers received fair wages and equal access to social services — including health care. Martin Luther King Jr. reached out to Chavez, noting, “Our separate struggles are really one — a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity.”
Today, in the weeks to come and in the years to come, we all need to answer the call of Dolores Huerta for all Californians to be “organizers” and to reach out to our friends and family to be sure no one is left behind. We all need to work to get our family, our friends, our classmates, the members of our congregation and everyone in our communities to get health coverage.
I want to remind everyone what is at stake here. For the first time in our country’s history, health care is a right and not a privilege. For some, it’s a chance they’ve never had before, because health insurance companies refused to cover them. For many, it’s an opportunity to get financial help toward purchasing the best plan that fits their needs. For everyone, it’s a chance to make sure they get covered.
We know that when everyone has the same opportunities, and is treated fairly, everyone benefits. Getting health care is about providing peace of mind. It is also about economic justice. It is about changing people’s lives, and it is a responsibility we should all step up to.
It’s time to get the word out. Californians have until March 31 to be part of making history. We will not be extending the deadline. We have hundreds of enrollment events taking place across the state during the rest of this month. And we’re encouraging consumers to get local in-person and confidential help from Certified Enrollment Counselors, Certified Insurance Agents and county eligibility workers in every county in the state. Across the state, these individuals are the front line organizers that Dolores Huerta called for. We are at schools, churches and libraries in counties across California. Go to CoveredCA.com and click on the “Events Near You” button to find one near you. Please spread that word, tell a friend or a family member and go to CoveredCA.com and get covered.
While we get the word out about the March 31 deadline, it is important to remember that it also marks the beginning of a new era. Throughout 2014 we will be promoting enrollment for those who leave their job or have another major life change, and Medi-Cal enrollment is year round. And we’re already planning for the next open-enrollment period coming this fall. While we can and should celebrate the enrollment we’ve seen, we know we have much to learn from the past months as we seek to build a health care system that works for all Californians in the months and years to come. Thank you for being part of the effort between now and March 31 and in the months and years to come.