One year ago, many of us were rolling up our sleeves and working long hours together to help millions of Californians get the health care coverage they wanted and deserved. Today Covered California is getting ready to open the doors of health care coverage again.
Open enrollment begins Nov. 15 and runs through Feb. 15, 2015. If you or someone you know doesn’t have health care coverage right now, this is your opportunity to get the security and peace of mind that comes from being insured, whether it is through Covered California or Medi-Cal.
This year we will be armed with the knowledge of what worked well during our first open-enrollment period and where we need to focus more of our energies. Last week we released a report titled “Covered California OpenEnrollment 2013-2014: Lessons Learned.” The report offers an in-depth look at our historic first year and the challenges we faced. The report served as a roadmap for the significant improvements we are making as we prepare for the upcoming renewal and open-enrollment process.
I encourage you to click on the above link and take a look at the report, because it not only serves as a good example of our commitment to transparency, but also reflects our constant desire to learn and continually improve what we do on behalf of Californians.
We hope these improvements make it easier not only for new consumers to enroll, but also for the more than 1.1 million Californians who have already signed up for a Covered California health plan to keep their coverage. Among the improvements:
- Covered California will be spending more on marketing and enrollment activities for the 2015 renewal/open-enrollment period than we did in our first year.
- Enrollment of African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans will be emphasized and broadened through targeted advertising in relevant media outlets.
- New grants will support outreach and enrollment activities in groups anchored in African-American, Latino and Asian-American communities and new community-anchored activities throughout the state.
- We are rolling out our new “I’m In” and “Tengo un Plan” advertising campaign that features real consumers who have enrolled in Covered California and had their lives changed by the care they have received, as well as by the security and peace of mind their coverage provides.
- We will double the number of Service Center representatives to assist consumers, with a fourfold increase in those who speak languages other than English. Our goal is to dramatically decrease wait times while also providing information to consumers while they wait through improvements in the messages consumers hear when they call.
- Our online enrollment portal, CalHEERS, has been upgraded to handle more simultaneous users and faster page loads so that consumers will not get stuck in the middle of the application process.
- We will dedicate more Service Center representatives to directly help Certified Insurance Agents and Certified Enrollment Counselors.
- Our Service Center hours have been expanded to accommodate consumers after hours, with the Service Center now open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday. In addition, the Service Center will be open every Sunday through Dec. 14 except for Sunday, Nov. 30.
- Our partners will open more than 200 storefronts across the state, in retail locations like malls, to help educate, enroll and renew consumers in convenient locations when it meets their needs. This is in addition to the thousands of offices of insurance agents and partner enrollment organizations.
We’ll be starting open enrollment with more than 12,000 Certified Insurance Agents, 10,000 county eligibility workers, and 6,400 Certified Enrollment Counselors to help provide free, confidential, in-person assistance. You can find their locations by clicking on the “Find Help NearYou” button on our website.
Although open enrollment doesn’t begin until November, consumers can explore their health plan options now and find out if they qualify for financial assistance by using our Shop and Compare Tool. All they need to do is enter the number of people in the household who will be covered, their household income, their ZIP code and the age of each adult who will be covered.
We are proud of the work we have done in the past year — and thankful to the thousands of people who have helped us reach this point. In the past year, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 3.4 million previouslyuninsured Californians now have health care coverage, and The Commonwealth Fundestimated that California’s uninsured rate dropped from 22 percent to 11percent.
We know that in many ways this year will be harder. It’s only a three-month open-enrollment period, compared with six months last time. Plus, studies show us that many uninsured Californians have either been without health insurance for more than two years or never had it at all. We want to move these people from a “culture of coping” to a “culture of coverage” and show them how they can be protected with health insurance.
I want to thank you for all that you have done and ask you to “lean in” and help us continue this new era of health care. We know that it will be tough and that there will be bumps along the way. However, we are committed to dealing with these challenges quickly, because we know the difference it can make in the lives of the Californians we are seeking to serve.
Let’s make history again.