More than 425,000 Californians – including a bigger percentage of younger residents – signed up for new health insurance policies by last week’s Obamacare enrollment deadline, Covered California officials announced Thursday.
The last four days before the Jan. 31 cutoff saw a rush of last-minute enrollees, as nearly 100,000 people signed up, said Peter Lee, the state program’s executive director. Overall, about 1.6 million Californians have selected a plan for 2016, including those who renewed their policies from last year.
Three years into implementation of the Affordable Care Act, Californians are among 12.7 million consumers nationwide who signed up for 2016 policies, either through the HealthCare.gov website or individual state marketplaces such as Covered California.
The sign-ups come amid continued political debate about Obamacare, which many Republican presidential candidates vow to repeal if elected. According to a November Gallup Poll, 52 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the 2010 health reform.
Final numbers could grow slightly in California, Lee noted. Those who started applications or had an enrollment appointment by the deadline still have until midnight Saturday to finish their application.
“Don’t gamble on your health. We will help you get across the finish line,” Lee said. To complete a pending application, consumers can meet with a Covered California enrollment counselor, call the 800-300-1506 helpline or go online at CoveredCa.com.
This year, Covered California officials ramped up efforts to enroll more Hispanics and African Americans, opening 500 storefront centers, training more counselors, speaking at churches and going door to door to encourage sign-ups. It also identified “hot spots,” neighborhoods with higher percentages of residents eligible for federally subsidized health insurance. In Sacramento County, for instance, the identified neighborhoods were in Arden-Arcade, Citrus Heights and south Sacramento.
Lee said it’s still unclear how well those efforts paid off. Final enrollment breakdowns by ethnicity, city, county and type of plan selected will not be available until Feb. 18.
He said Covered California grew its percentage of young adults: 37 percent of new enrollments were ages 18 to 34, compared with 29 percent in the first enrollment period two years ago. Boosting the number of younger, healthy adults will mean “better rates and a more stable system” for all enrollees, Lee said.
With open enrollment for 2016 ended, consumers must have a “life-changing” event – such as getting married, having a baby or losing a job – to obtain a Covered California policy this year. (Those who qualify for Medi-Cal can apply for Covered California policies year-round.)