Two-Thirds of State’s Uninsured Before Health Law Are Now Covered

Two-thirds of Californians who were uninsured before the Affordable Care Act went into effect now have health coverage, according to a study released Thursday.

The nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation has followed more than 1,100 Californians who lacked health insurance as of September 2013 through the first two coverage enrollment periods, the latest of which ended in February.

The foundation found that 68 percent of previously uninsured Californians now have coverage, up from 58 percent after the first enrollment period ended in spring 2014. About a third of the previously uninsured are now covered through the state’s Medi-Cal program for the poor, while just 12 percent bought coverage through Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange.

California has been largely hailed as a success story when it comes to implementing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Covered California, the exchange where 1.3 million residents buy coverage, released its new rates earlier this week. The exchange negotiated a 4 percent overall rate increase with insurers for 2016, although Northern California residents will see an average increase of about 7 percent because the insurance market is dominated by fewer health systems than other parts of the state.

Although many people have gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, prospects for bringing substantially more of the uninsured — through Covered California, Medi-Cal or employer plans — appear to be dim, the Kaiser Family Foundation said.

Those who remain without coverage are “a harder-to-reach group,” said Mollyann Brodie, senior vice president and executive director for public opinion and survey research at the foundation. “Many of them … are eligible, but they haven’t been attached to a health insurance option for a long time.”

A significant number of those who aren’t covered are ineligible for insurance because of their immigration status. The Affordable Care Act does not allow coverage for those who are in the country illegally.

Latino residents have been the most difficult demographic group to enroll in coverage. About 70 percent of the remaining uninsured people are Latino, the foundation said, and many of them are ineligible because of their immigration status.

The survey also found that most people who have recently obtained insurance reported having their health care needs met “somewhat” or “very well.” Still, problems exist with getting access to care. Within the past year, 28 percent of newly insured people said they had to wait longer than they thought reasonable for an appointment, and 16 percent said a doctor’s office refused to take them.

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