Capitol Alert: California reports 59,000 health insurance enrollees through Tuesday

ccadelago@sacbee.comNovember 13, 2013 

Michelle Liu of Sacramento was among about 1,500 people who waited in line Saturday at the Convention Center downtown to sign up for health care insurance through the state’s new health exchange, Covered California.

GENEVIEVE ROSS — Special to the Bee

More than 59,000 Californians have signed up for coverage since the state launched its health insurance marketplace last month, but the figures showed a significant uptick in activity in the first two weeks of November, officials said Wednesday.

Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee, who sought to tamp down expectations for October, said 30,830 customers enrolled in the exchange in the first month and another 29,000 signed up through Tuesday.

Lee characterized California's numbers as "better than encouraging" even as federal officials struggled to explain lackluster enrollment nationwide.

"This is a proud day for California," Lee said from the agency's headquarters in Sacramento.

"We are very pleased with the numbers," he said. "We are very pleased with the momentum."

The state figures come on the same day the Obama administration said just 106,000 people nationwide selected health plans in the first month of open enrollment by way of insurance marketplaces run by the states and federal government.

The number was significantly lower than the administration was projecting. At the same time millions of customers across the country are complaining about being dropped from plans that don't comply with the Affordable Care Act.

California estimates between 500,000 and 700,000 customers who are eligible for a subsidy will enroll in the marketplace in the first six months. After initial hiccups, the state has largely recovered from technical problems that still plague the federal government's enrollment portal for three dozen states.

About three-quarters of the enrollees came from 14 state-run exchanges -- with just 26,794 signing up through the federal exchange.

In a joint announcement with the Department of Health Care Services, Covered California said 370,000 customers began the application process for a plan through the exchange or coverage through Medi-Cal. Of them, about 72,00 were determined as likely eligible for Medi-Cal.

Lee said he was heartened by an internal survey that found people generally found the enrollment process to be easy.

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