Monday, April 21, 2014

Covered California's Executive Director: Thanks to Thousands

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s historic first open-enrollment period for California ended in a record-breaking fashion. On the last day that consumers could complete their applications and select a health insurance plan through Covered California, we set a single-day record of helping more than 50,000 Californians cross the finish line.


All told, nearly 1.4 million people enrolled in health insurance through Covered California, and another 1.9 million people enrolled in Medi-Cal. Together, more than 3.3 million Californians got covered thanks to the hard work of thousands of people in every community across the state.

We know that behind every one of those numbers is a person, a family member, a co-worker, a neighbor. And behind every one of those who got insurance is the work of many Californians who have been part of making history by helping to get the word out and helping people enroll.


Many of those who got covered were previously uninsured, either because they were denied coverage or because they couldn’t afford to purchase a plan. Others had insurance but now have the confidence that they will never have their insurance taken away from them and that their coverage will be there when they need it. It is our hope that they are all living with new peace of mind.

Examples of some of the faces behind the numbers can be found in the profiles we included in our recent “I’m In” and “Tengo un Plan” advertising campaigns, which featured people like:
  • Marina Grijalva, a tutor who had to travel to Mexico for her annual checkup because she could not afford health insurance.
  • Stella Cheung, who started her own yoga practice but couldn’t afford the rising cost of her catastrophic coverage plan. Now she’s got better coverage that’s more affordable.
  • Sally Nemeth, a writer who lost her insurance during a strike and could only afford a plan with high deductibles and co-pays.
  • And Luis Lupercio, an uninsured construction worker and father of two, who was still paying for the bills from his child’s skateboarding injury.
All four of them — and now millions more — have health coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.

Although we have closed our first open-enrollment period, we are not declaring success. This is not the finish line, but it is a very good beginning. And it is a good beginning because of the hard work of tens of thousands of people across California. In the coming months, Toby Douglas, the director of the California Department of Health Care Services, and I will be sending certificates of appreciation to the thousands across the state who helped make history.

We will also be sharing this YouTube video with the hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals who helped with the outreach and enrollment efforts across the state.



We want to thank the more than 12,000 Covered California Certified Insurance Agents, such as Edmond Haronian from Canoga Park, who enrolled close to 600 people since January; and Lyndon and Rose Flores of San Jose, who enrolled a man with stage 4 lung cancer into an Enhanced Silver plan for no cost.

We want to thank our county partners and the many thousands of county eligibility workers and other county staff who have been helping consumers enroll in both Covered California and Medi-Cal across the state — workers like Nick Curry of the Solano County Health and Social Services Department, who processed about 350 applications; and Elisa Miller, who oversaw a task force of eligibility workers at San Bernardino County’s Transitional Assistance Department Administration.

We want to thank the thousands of Certified Enrollment Counselors and Certified Educators, and the many groups they work for, who have been getting the word out and helping people enroll. These are the community groups, clinics, churches and other organizations that are trusted voices in the neighborhoods they serve. We want to thank people like:
  • Leticia Serrato, a counselor in Clinica Sierra Vista, who said she was proud to “make a difference in helping uninsured people have affordable health insurance.”
  • Esperanza Aguilar of Escamilla in Pomona, who helped one family save more than $600 a month for their insurance.
  • Educators like Suzanna Choi of the California Asian Chamber of Commerce, who conducted more than 85 education events.
  • Cynthia Summers and Ray Zulueta of the California NAACP, which held more than 300 education events and reached an estimated 100,000 African-Americans in the state.
  • Manny Hernandez, a member of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers in Los Angeles, who, like hundreds of other members, works daily to provide health care and has been volunteering on evenings and weekends to help enroll thousands of Californians at events across the state.
Finally, I send my thanks to the staff at Covered California and the Department of Health Care Services who have been working tirelessly for many months. I especially want to thank the nearly 800 Service Center representatives who have been answering calls and solving problems for consumers. These are the men and women on the front lines for us.

We would not be here without all of your hard work to make a difference in the lives of so many. This is a new era of health care: one where thousands of uninsured people got access to coverage for the first time, where all Californians can now live with assurance that they are not a job change away from being without health insurance and where how much you make no longer determines how healthy you can be.

To those who spread the word, did outreach and education, and helped enroll Californians, thank you! You are the true heroes of this launch in California.