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Covered California open enrollment begins Saturday

SACRAMENTO, California -- Open enrollment for health coverage in 2015 through Covered California begins Saturday, Nov. 15 and leaders from the statewide health exchange are hitting the road to spread the word.

Covered California representatives will be in San Diego today, starting at 10 am.

Now in its second year, the Covered California health exchange is a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and is intended to help Californians find affordable health coverage. Through Covered California, consumers can shop and enroll in medical and dental plans, and apply for premium assistance.

Covered Caliofrnia's executive director Peter V. Lee and other leaders of Covered California, community partners and elected officials will make appearances at enrollment events and storefronts to encourage uninsured Californians to obtain health coverage during the open-enrollment period through Covered California.

“This bus tour builds on lessons we learned during the first open enrollment — that health care is regional, it’s local, and it’s personal,” Lee said. “In communities of all sizes in our state, we will share the stories of real people who have benefited from the care and coverage they have obtained and encourage those without insurance to get covered.”

The tour, which started at the State Capitol on Monday, includes stops in Petaluma, Gilroy, Fresno, San Bernardino, Palm Springs, San Luis Obispo, Salinas, Chico and Redding, as well as stops in major cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego.

A major media event is planned for tomorrow in Los Angeles, the day before open enrollment begins, at the historic Grand Park in front of Los Angeles City Hall.

The bus tour takes place as Covered California ramps up its “I’m In” statewide marketing campaign, with multilingual television ads running in every major market to let Californians know that open enrollment starts Nov. 15.

“As we meet consumers across the state, we will explain how to enroll in coverage and share the tangible ways having health insurance is improving the lives of real people in California,” Lee said. “We’re also encouraging everyone in California who does have health insurance to spread the word to their friends and neighbors by using social media to share the word: ‘I’m In.’”

The bus tour is one element of a $95 million community outreach campaign supported by federal grant funding provided for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the second year.

Lee noted that open enrollment is shorter this year, meaning consumers will have less time to consider their options and sign up for coverage for 2015.

“We will need to work harder to enroll those who are still uninsured,” Lee said. “We want to get the word out to Californians not to gamble with their health by going without insurance.”

Covered California anticipates a total enrollment of 1.7 million Californians by the end of the coming open-enrollment period — 1.5 million in subsidized coverage and 230,000 in unsubsidized coverage. This forecast represents an increase of about 500,000 in total enrollment (43%).

Among improvements made by Covered California for this year’s open enrollment are changes aimed at improving consumers’ experiences enrolling, including

- Building on an experienced and committed team of more than 28,000 people who can enroll Californians confidentially and at no cost, including more than 12,000 Certified Insurance Agents, 10,000 county eligibility workers and 6,400 Certified Enrollment Counselors. Consumers seeking help near them can visit CoveredCA.com and click “Find Local Help” to search by ZIP code for free help to sign up for coverage.

- Launching the “I’m In” social media campaign — a new way to get the word out by engaging all Californians who have health insurance to share the word with friends on social media. “I’m In” tools will be available on the CoveredCA.com website under the “Tell a Friend” button starting Monday.

- More than doubling the number of Service Center representatives — state employees and contractors — to dramatically reduce wait times and help consumers enroll.

- Expanding Service Center hours and adding more bilingual staffers to help consumers in their own language rather than using interpreters.

Refreshing the website to ease consumers’ exploration of their coverage options, with better-organized journeys as they explore health coverage options, including Medi-Cal.

- Adding more than 200 storefront locations open on evenings and weekends to give consumers who work full time a place they can visit and return to enroll or get questions answered.

“The Affordable Care Act presents historic opportunities for all individuals — sick or healthy — to get the health coverage and care they need,” Lee said. "Open enrollment is the time when they can get free, confidential assistance to explore their options and get financial support based on their income to purchase health coverage that’s right for them.”

Covered California offers a range of choices of private health insurance plans. Consumers can choose the health plan and level of coverage (Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum) that best meets their health needs and budget. Depending on their income, many consumers who seek insurance through Covered California may find they qualify for health coverage in Medi-Cal, which offers low-cost and no-cost coverage.

Covered California in San Diego

The Covered California tour bus will be at the San Diego Convention Center today in Conference Room 16AB starting at 10 am. The Convention Center is located at 111 W. Harbor Drive.

Alternatively, the San Diego LGBT Community Center has staff on hand who can answer questions about Covered California coverage options and help consumers enroll. Contact Sarah Merk-Benitez at 619-692-2077 ext. 213 or smerkbenitez@thecentersd.org for an appointment.

For more information or to enroll in a health plan, click HERE.

About Covered California

Covered California is the state’s marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Covered California, in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services, was charged with creating a new health insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to affordable health insurance plans. Covered California helps individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance that is available on a sliding-scale basis to reduce insurance costs or whether they are eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Small businesses can purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the new market work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the Legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit HERE.