Covered Cal cost a burden, 44% say

cost of health insurance imageAs California’s Obamacare operation begins negotiations over rates for 2016, a new survey shows many of the newly insured are having trouble paying their premiums.

44 percent of Covered California enrollees told researchers it is “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to pay their monthly premium, according to the study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Three-fourths of consumers who bought their insurance via Covered California rated their health care as “excellent” or “good.”

More than half (58%) of newly insured adults said that they used at least one medical service since gaining coverage, and nearly half (47%) reported getting a preventive visit or check-up.

Covered California welcomed the survey results, highlighting information that showed it was reaching two of its main target groups: Latinos and the relatively young. Latinos made up 37 percent of the enrollees, and half of the newly insured were between the ages of 19 and 34.

Hispanics, however, “are disproportionately represented among the remaining uninsured population,” the researchers said.

The report — “Coverage Expansions and the Remaining Uninsured” — was based on the California portion of the 2014 “Kaiser Survey of Low-Income Americans and the ACA,” which followed up on a 2013 baseline study. Responses were gathered between Sept. 2 and Dec. 15, 2014. The study looked at the newly insured, the already insured and those without insurance.

Other key findings:

  • “Safety net” clinics remain an important source of care for both the uninsured and the newly insured. Those with previously existing coverage tended to use doctor’s offices.
  • More than a third (37 percent) of uninsured adults say they use their usual source of care because it is affordable.
  • More than a third of newly insured adults (35 percent) said that they postponed or went without needed care since gaining their coverage, the same share as the uninsured.
  • Adults with Covered California insurance or Medi-Cal were more likely to report problems with providers not taking them as a patient than adults with other private coverage.

The newly insured said cost was a major factor in their choice of coverage plans, and about a third of them said they did not understand the plans.

Covered California said the survey “highlights a continued need to educate consumers on how to navigate their health insurance.”

Of the Covered California members who reported problems paying their premiums, the group pointed to changes in its “standard benefit design” for 2016 that will cut down on services requiring a deductible payment. “As an active purchaser, one of the ways Covered California is working to keep costs down is by negotiating with health carriers for the very best rates possible,” CEO Peter Lee said.

Board Member Genoveva Islas called the report “an independent validation that Covered California is working.”

The new rates for coverage bought via Covered California are expected next month. Rate increases for 2015 came in averaging an increase of just over 4 percent, although some carriers lowered rates.

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