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Tuesday, Oct 15 2013 06:00 AM

State health care marketplace offerings produce mixed results for residents

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Covered California's marketplace website will be the first stop for many Californians as they research aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Tehachapi News file photo

Since the opening of the new health insurance marketplace enrollment on Oct. 1, people across the states have been signing up for health insurance, more than 28,000 of them in California, according to an Oct. 8 report by Bloomberg.com.

Like several states, California has instituted its own marketplace to aid the uninsured in acquiring the healthcare now afforded to them by law.

Covered California is a health exchange formed under the Affordable Care Act -- essentially, a one-stop shop through which low- or medium-income residents can purchase health insurance at discounted rates.

The Kern County Department of Human Services released a statement on Sept. 27 explaining its role in the open enrollment period.

"The Department of Human Services is just one piece of this new Health Care Coverage puzzle," Kern County Department of Human Services Director Pat Cheadle said in the release. "But we know that our office is where many people will turn to understand their health care coverage options available either through the expansion of Medi-Cal, or through the state insurance exchange, known as Covered California. Our department will play a critical role in determining eligibility and enrollment for health care and other assistance for residents."

The department estimated 52,000 Kern County residents are eligible for income-based and federal subsidized coverage through Covered California.

Tehachapi area residents have experienced mixed results as they explored the new marketplace, as reflected in an informal Tehachapi News Facebook poll.

Megan Foster, whose profile says she lives in Tehachapi, said, "My mom is finally able to get health insurance after being denied for so long because of her crohn's disease and epilepsy, and it's for an affordable price. She works full time but her job doesn't offer benefits and she can't work without her medicine. It's not a perfect solution, but I am happy that my mom doesn't have to chose any more between medicine or groceries."

Nancy Thompson, whose profile also suggests she is from Tehachapi, said, "My daughter looked into it. Going to cost her $12,760 a year... [She] works for [a restaurant] and has already had her hours cut to below 30 [per] week. All in the name of ObamaCare. Her insurance will not be subsidized and she will only get 60 percent coverage. So, the bottom line? Her 'insurance' will cost her more than two-thirds of her annual income."

Covered California initially said its website received five million hits on Oct. 1, according to Forbes.com, but later revised the number to 645,000.

The state-run entity has run a massive outreach program state-wide, though efforts in Kern County have been primarily limited to Bakersfield.

"The Covered California mission is to increase the number of Californians with health insurance, improve the quality of health care for all of us, reduce health care coverage costs and make sure California's diverse population has fair and equal access to quality health care," the organization's website states.

Covered California is currently operating on a grant, which runs out Dec. 31, 2014. The goal is to place a three percent fee on health insurance companies who enroll customers through their participation in the marketplace, to provide future funding. The insurance companies would not be allowed to pass the fee on to customers.

For more information on Covered California, visit CoveredCa.com. Icons on the homepage direct visitors to information on plans for individuals and families, small businesses, and finding Covered California representatives in the area.

Covered California representatives can also be reached at 1-800-300-1506, while the local Department of Human Services can be reached at 661-631-6807. Contact Covered California:

CoveredCa.com

1-800-300-1506

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