Today is an important anniversary. One year ago, a new era of health care began in California and across the nation. On Oct. 1, 2013, the Affordable Care Act went from being just an idea to being the new reality for our country, as we started to enroll Americans in coverage that would start in January.
One year ago, we launched the first Covered California open-enrollment period with community events in Sacramento, San Diego, Fresno, the Bay Area and Los Angeles. At these events across the state, we had community activists, insurance agents, doctors and nurses, elected officials, representatives from the California Department of Health Care Services, county workers and many others who came together to be part of answering the prayers of so many people. I’m talking about people who had gone without health care coverage for long periods of time because they either could not afford the cost or had been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
We can look back and know that on Oct. 1 we flung open the doors and made health care a right and not a privilege, marking the day when California began moving from a culture of coping to a culture of coverage.
One year later the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 3.4 million previously uninsured Californians now have health care coverage. The Commonwealth Fund recently estimated that our collective efforts have cut California’s uninsured rate in half and dropped it from 22 percent to 11 percent.
In just one year we got millions of people covered through Covered California or Medi-Cal, improved the overall health of our state and made a real difference in the lives of thousands of Californians, because of the work you did.
Today I’m in Oakland to celebrate this anniversary with some of those who have helped make this possible for Californians, meeting with great partners like La Clínica de la Raza and Asian Health Services, as well as insurance agents and representatives of many other community groups that have worked so hard over the past year to educate Californians about their new health care options and enroll them in coverage that best fit their needs.
The life-changing moments we saw in the past year could not have happened without these groups or without our expanding network of community partners, insurance agents, doctors, nurses, unions, library systems, schools and faith-based leaders throughout the state.
You are the reason California is succeeding in implementing the Affordable Care Act. You are the reason our communities are stronger and our neighbors are healthier. You are the reason that so many lives have been changed for the better.
While today marks an important anniversary, we must also remember that we are just one year into this process and we have a lot more work to do. The road has been bumpy to get us where we are today, and we can be sure that there will bumps along the way as we go forward. But we are continuing to learn and improve.
The second open enrollment begins in just six weeks, on Nov. 15, and we’re not resting on our laurels. Instead we are gearing up and building on the partnerships, community-based enrollment efforts and lessons learned from last year.
We know this year will be harder. In three short months, we need to both renew coverage for more than a million Californians and reach out to the many who are eligible for coverage who have not signed up. A study recently found that many uninsured Californians who are eligible for subsidies have been without coverage for years; 56 percent have been uninsured for more than two years, and 15 percent have never been insured. Many of those who are subsidy-eligible are in higher income brackets and don’t qualify for much financial help, so they have chosen to stay uninsured.
Many of these people have grown all too accustomed to the culture of coping — figuring out ways to somehow make it work if they get sick or are injured. Together we need to show them how their lives can be improved and how they can be protected with health care coverage. Covered California will be working with partners in every part of the state — in communities, schools, churches and workplaces — as well as through social media, television and radio in the coming weeks and months. We will be applying the lessons we’ve learned by looking back over the past year.
While we look back at what Californians have achieved and consider the lessons we have learned in one short year, we also need to be looking ahead. Today I’m asking the broad network of partners throughout the state who share Covered California’s commitment to expanding coverage to lean in and help us make history again. We know it will be tough. We know it will be challenging. We also know it will be worth it and will make a difference in our churches and schools and in the lives of our families, our co-workers, our friends and our neighbors.
Labels: Peter V. Lee Blog