The trip may be over, but the journey continues.
After nearly two weeks on the road, Covered California wrapped up its 2,000-mile-long “Spotlight on Coverage” bus tour in Sacramento last Thursday. We traveled the entire state, from San Diego to Eureka, and spread the word about open enrollment and how those insured are not only saving money, but also getting access to needed health care. We literally handed out spotlights to storefronts and clinics. We also put spotlights on many iconic California buildings — from LAX to city halls in Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco and to the Tower Bridge in Sacramento — to raise awareness about open enrollment.
The tour generated great media coverage across the California, and it was also a reminder that implementing change on the scale of the Affordable Care Act will not happen overnight — we are all on a multi-year mission to change from a culture of coping to a culture of coverage.
All of us can be part of getting the word out. Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31, 2016, and if you or someone you know is uninsured, this is the opportunity to get health care coverage that can change lives.
On the road, I was able to share the fact that as a nation, we have — for the first time in our nation’s history — reduced the rate of the uninsured to less than 10 percent. In California, we have reduced the uninsured rate from 17 percent in 2013 to 8.6 percent in 2015. In Eureka, the director of the Open Door Community Clinic shared their remarkable numbers: Before the Affordable Care Act, 40 percent of those seen by the clinic were uninsured, and now that number is only 6 percent. But behind those numbers are people whose lives have been changed. While we were on the road, we met many people who shared their personal stories of how having health insurance dramatically changed their world.
In Pomona, Certified Insurance Agent Roberto Ortiz told us about one of the families he helped enroll. They were uninsured and went to the emergency room when one of them starting having heart problems. They got the care they needed but walked out with a $40,000 bill and information about Covered California. Their entire family of four is now covered for less than $100 per month and protected from any excessive future health expenses. While they hate having a big debt hanging over their heads, they are grateful to have the peace of mind they never thought they could have.
In Salinas, I met David, who lost his health care coverage through his job and was facing a $1,500 monthly premium from COBRA. He needed to keep his diabetes under control but could not afford to pay that much. With Covered California, he got health care coverage for less than $300 per month and is still able to see the same doctors he knows and trusts.
In Oakland, I met Hugo, who told me about a life-threatening health condition and his desperate efforts to ration his medication by splitting his pills. Today, with coverage through Covered California, he is healthy and getting the care he needs.
In Redding, I met a woman who did not want to share her name, but she wanted to share her story. Two years ago, she was uninsured, and she couldn’t afford any coverage until Covered California came along and gave her the financial help she needed to get health insurance. She enrolled and immediately saw a doctor for her free preventive services. The results showed a potential problem, so she got a full set of tests and was diagnosed with uterine cancer. She was referred to a top oncologist in Sacramento, underwent surgery and follow-up care, and is now happily and thankfully cancer-free.
With more than 1.3 million actively enrolled consumers, stories like these are happening in every community throughout California. People are getting the care they need. Illnesses are being treated, injuries are being healed, and lives are being improved. We want everyone to have the protection and peace of mind that comes with health insurance, and that’s why open enrollment matters.
In large communities and small, we met insurance agents and staff in community clinics, churches, hospitals and more who are committed to making their communities healthier by getting their neighbors covered. Tell your friends to visit CoveredCA.com and make sure you tell them about the financial help available. They can find out on our website if they qualify, or they can find the nearest Certified Insurance Agent, storefront or Certified Enrollment Counselor to get free and confidential help. Tell your family and friends about this new era of health care and make sure they are covered.
We have made great strides, but we have more work to do. The journey continues, and we look forward to taking the next step with you.