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California Exchange Seeks To Enroll 500,000 More People

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Covered California, the Golden State’s online health insurance marketplace, announced Monday that it will be spending close to $100 million as it aims to enroll 500,000 new people during the second round of open enrollment, which begins in two months.

The state also will be trying to help about 1.2 million Californians renew health plans they received thanks to the nation’s Affordable Care Act during the inaugural enrollment period last fall. The numbers do not include the roughly 2 million who signed up for Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor.

The renewal process hasn’t been finalized, but beginning sometime in early October, customers who bought plans through Covered California will get letters explaining the details, a Covered California spokesman said. People will have a chance to switch plans, and the state will re-examine consumers’ eligibility for government subsidies.

The state’s outreach efforts include a $46-million radio, TV, print, and social-media ad campaign that will target and feature African Americans, Latinos and Asians who have benefited from access to health insurance. Some ads have already started running in English and Spanish throughout the state. Ads in Asian languages are set to begin next week in the Los Angeles, Bay Area and Central Valley markets.

The campaign, dubbed “I’m In” in English and “Tengo un Plan” in Spanish, will continue to be all about “telling stories about what’s happening in local communities,” said Peter Lee, Covered California’s executive director. It borrows from a narrative-focused advertising trend that has worked well in other industries.

Lee also announced that $14.6 million in new public funds for clinics, churches and other community-based organizations will be available to use to educate people and enroll them in health insurance. Several representatives of the more than 220 grant recipients said they would be able to undertake or expand in-person assistance and other services. The grants will supplement $33 million in government funds already available for outreach.

The state is “doubling down” on its efforts in areas where enrollment wasn’t as high as advocates would have liked, including in Southern California’s Inland Empire, the Central Valley, certain parts of Los Angeles and some rural areas, Lee said.

“It won’t be easy. In many ways it’s going to be harder this year than it was last year,” Lee said.

As in the first phase, success will hinge on reaching out to people who may not understand what insurance is all about. For example, of those eligible for government subsidies through Covered California, 56 percent haven’t had insurance for at least two years, and 15 percent have never had insurance, he said.