by Chris Huckins Google+ Email 


Covered California

05 February 2013

How Prepared Is Covered California?

Posted in Covered California

How Prepared Is Covered California?

    In the age of 140 character tweets, time will run out before the average American’s concentration on finishing this sentence will ultimately succumb to distraction. Coincidentally, that sentence is exactly 140 characters before “succumb to distraction.”  According to a Lloyds research, attention spans have shrunk from 12 minutes in 1998 to 5 minutes in 2008. It’s unfortunate that today Obamacare is 2,163,744 words and affects every American.

    At 200 words per minute, every Obamacare regulation would take 180 hours to read, or 7.5 days of non-stop reading, or four and a half 40-hour business weeks. As the meme-queen Sweet Brown says, “Ain't nobody got time for that!”.

    In 2007, prior to Obamacare and Twitter’s mainstream popularity, one state dared to make health insurance simple, easy, and almost fun to buy. Imagine Priceline without William Shatner, the Negotiator. Massachusetts rolled out “Health Connector,” a website that unknowingly changed purchasing insurance for Americans forever.  The Bay State became the first to form its own health insurance exchange. Fast forward to 2013, when every state must create an “Exchange” to insure its residents, California hopes to achieve the same success and learn from Mass’s mistakes with their own exchange, “Covered California”.

    Between mid-October through November, Massachusetts’ exchange, “Commonwealth Care Program” surveyed website users, resulting in some pretty pleasing numbers:

        84% considered it satisfied (and rated it 4 or 5 on a five-point satisfaction scale).

        88% indicated it was easy or somewhat easy to enroll in a health plan.

        84% agree or strongly agree that they obtained information they needed (95% of Spanish speaking members agree or strongly agree).

    However, not everyone experienced “love at first click”. 40 percent of users found the information provided difficult to understand. One in five felt overwhelmed with choices. Many wished “someone” (like an agent??) would narrow down their choices.

    It’s not expected Covered California, who plans to hire 850 Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) by 2014, will be able to train everyone on every different plan, every different network of doctors, every different treatment and prescription by next year. Did I mention how long it’ll take a CSR to be schooled in the complexities of American healthcare? According to page 6 of Covered California’s timeline, “Training delivery” will start mid-April and continue until September, a month before the website launches.

    When I think of government institutions, I flash back to waiting in line at the post office, waiting in line at the court house, waiting in line at the DMV, even waiting at the library (but at least I brought a book). Contrarily, popular institutions like the Center for Disease Control or The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children don’t provide as much customer service to everyday Americans (hopefully) to receive their backlash. It’s unfair to assume Covered California may debut as another stereotypical sluggish bureaucracy. After all, they're working faster than the crew on a Hobbit movie. However, Californians may feel more comfortable calling an insurance agent who’s had decades, versus months of experience. That’s fair to say.

    Call us for any insurance questions at 818.784.7047 or visit Don’t know what plan is for you? We’re here to help!


22 January 2013

California’s Red Carpet Treatment of Obamacare

Posted in Covered California

California’s Red Carpet Treatment of Obamacare

    In typical Hollywood fashion - 90 days before the rest of the nation - Californians are invited to the debut of “Covered California”, the state-run health insurance exchange beginning October 1, 2013. It’s not to say they’re getting VIP treatment or Obama’s keen on celebrities selling Obamacare through film and movies... Though did anyone read the 127-page document released by Covered California, specifically page 66?

    “Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, the Biggest Loser, Dr. Oz and others will be approached and pitched to incorporate story lines or mentions of health care reform that would reinforce campaign messages and would air in Phases III – VII (August 2013 – December 2015 time frame).”

    The reason California gets its exchange first is because it was the first state to outline its health exchange agenda. Coincidentally, the Golden State ranks highest in uninsured residents, according to California Health Care Foundation. An estimated 7.1 million Californians lack insurance, the largest of any racial or ethnic group being the Latino population, who make up 59% of the state’s uninsured and have the highest uninsured rate: 31%. Makes sense that the same 127-page document labels Latinos “A Critical Target” and spends the next 9 pages outlining plans to reach out and sign up Latinos for insurance. This is compared to African Americans who have 6 pages, Asian Pacific Islanders who have 5 pages, and American Indians who get 1 page of plans.

    Reading along, this document shows aggressive strategies to reach out and educate each ethnic community on comprehensive, quality health care using massively-influential entertainment organizations. 

    Univision - the television network with the largest Spanish-speaking audience in the world - will participate in several Latino community events, including: Feria Es El Momento, Univision’s Blood Drive, and Salud Es Vida Enterate Health Fair. Additionally, celebrity endorsements who engage Latinos, specifically Rosario Dawson, Co-Founder of Voto Latino, Eva Longoria, spokesperson for Padres Contra El Cancer, and George Lopez, Founder of the George Lopez Foundation, are examples “Covered California” may consider.

    37.8 percent of African Americans were uninsured in 2007-2008, according to New America Media, an unfortunate number considering 68 percent of African-American adults in the state are overweight or obese. To the rescue comes Stevie Wonder, who Covered California mentions has worked with them last year and is the owner of one of the most popular urban contemporary radio stations in Los Angeles – KJLH-FM.

    But one man can’t “spread the gospel” of health insurance alone (And yes, the quote is actually in the plan). “The Groove Mobile” (their name for the bus tour) will be used to communicate the importance of enrollment. Visiting select communities, partnering with summer festivals, and attending health fairs with a heavy African American presence (heavy in numbers, not mass), this tour will be covered by news outlets and BET.

    According to the U.S. Census, California has the largest number of Asian Pacific Islander-owned small business with more than 500,000. Despite admitting how much emphasis it’ll place on targeting this group (second only to the Latino community), Covered California details little strategy in enrolling them. Other than mentioning possible partnership with Lisa Ling, a California-native and prominent Pacific Islander television journalist, honorable mentions for celebrity endorsement hopefuls included are: George Takei, Far East Movement, and a few “notable” Youtube directors.

    And how are those American Indians doing? To summarize their single page, Covered California “will continue to meet and collaborate with these Tribal groups” and promises to detail outreach plans in the future.  

    The entertainment industry is not the only group courted by California’s exchange program. Sports teams, religious organizations, and even super markets are potential partners to engage, educate, and enroll you in affordable healthcare. No matter where turn or who you talk to, health insurance will be in your face in 2013.

21 December 2012

You Survived the Apocalypse, Now Get Health Insurance and Live Longer!

Posted in Covered California

You Survived the Apocalypse, Now Get Health Insurance and Live Longer!

    So the world didn't come to an end, which means states still have to follow through with their decisions made last Friday: accept a federal Exchange plan or create a state Exchange for healthcare.

    According to this chart from last week, here are the current statuses for each state:


    As you may have noticed, there’s a third Exchange option: Partnership Exchange. What is this and who are the partners involved?

    On July 15th, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Kathleen Sebelius wrote to the Governors announcing the State Partnership model, a plan to accommodate local needs so that states can eventually transition to their own fully-run plan. Imagine the Partnership Exchange as training wheels for states learning to ride the "Obamacarecycle."

    The goal of the Partnership Exchange is to use each state’s knowledge and expertise in local insurance markets so that their citizens can have a seamless experience finding affordable healthcare. Under the Partnership Exchange plan there are also 3 options for states to help citizens transition into the new health reform requirements:

    State Consumer Assistance: If for example North Carolina elects to use the assistance plan, the state would oversee face-to-face consumer assistance, meaning experts would be available for in-person meetings to answer any questions and assist North Carolinians in finding the right individual or small business plan. These experts will be known as “Navigators."

    Navigators will not only provide direct aide in helping people sign up for insurance but also conduct outreach and education programs. Other consumer assistance programs can be more localized, using HHS resources to create call centers, manage websites where people can sign up for insurance, and correspond through mail to explain enrollment and eligibility for citizens.

    State Plan Management: On the other hand, if for example West Virginia plans to participate in the management plan, west Virginians will tailor health plan choices for their state’s Exchange. This plan could be considered more focused on states with existing strengths in health care exchanges and more expertise in their local insurance markets.

    What this plan would include is the collection and analysis of plan information, monitoring, and oversight so that consumers are guaranteed high quality, affordable healthcare. Data collection and analysis will also be a huge part of this plan, which is why states may choose it if they consider themselves experts in their current insurance markets.

    Additionally, HHS will coordinate with the states to help with consumer complaints and any issues with enrollments that may arise. It’s also important to note that HHS will be there 24/7, like an emergency contact, to ensure that each state Exchange meets every requirement of the Affordable Care Act and provides a wide range of healthcare options that are high in quality and low in cost.

    Both Plan Management & Consumer Assistance: The “Why-Not-Have-Cake-And-Eat-It-Too" Plan, which includes both functions mentioned previously. With the upcoming calendar change, more details will be announced by each state on how they’ll run their healthcare Exchange. California was the first to announce their independent exchange, known as “Covered California”, so they might be a trend setter in the upcoming months, unless of course the Apocalypse gets pushed back to 2013.

13 December 2012

‘Tis the Season to SHOP

Posted in Covered California

‘Tis the Season to SHOP

    Shrinking computer screens, 3D-printing, fuel-efficient cars, and extreme couponing are trending in 2012. But what will we buy next year? Well no one knows, but how about the following year? The answer is clear, according to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “Obamacare”, and what we’ll all have to “shop” for is health insurance.

    By 2014, every state must create a competitive health insurance marketplace, or “Exchange” for individuals and small businesses to “shop” for healthcare plans. The goal is to make it easy for everyday Americans to find affordable health insurance, get answers to questions, and offer employees healthcare that meets their needs. Additionally, tax credits will be available for many individuals, families, and businesses to make coverage affordable. California is the first state to introduce its plan, “Covered California”.

    There are two Exchanges under “Covered California”. Taking leaps and bound from past policies, the individual Exchange empowers all Californians to purchase affordable insurance and cannot deny those with preexisting conditions. However, age and smoking status will affect individuals in their quest for quality, affordable care.

    Four colorful tiers will differentiate plans you may be looking for: Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Each tier represents a percentage of Actuarial Value, which is an estimate of how much the insurance plan will pay for an average person's medical expenses (Platinum 90%, Gold 80%, Silver 70%, and Bronze 60%). In other words, the higher the Actuarial Value, the higher the premium will be and the lower the out-of-pocket costs will be to the consumer.

    For example: Mr. Wayne is part of the Silver tier, whose plan has an Actuarial Value of 70%. He expects to have $1,000 in medical expenses and his plan will pay $700 of those expenses (after premiums, co-pays and deductibles).

    Thankfully, “federal subsidies”, a fancier way of saying “advance tax credits”, are provided for taxpayers whose household income for the taxable year is between 133 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) for the appropriate family size. A neat calculator was built by the Kaiser Family Foundation and is available here to gauge how you may receive subsidies.

    The other Exchange and part of “Covered California” is built around small businesses. This building block for employers called “SHOP”, or Small Business Health Options Program, will seemingly act as a de factor human resource department to help find qualified health plans, get information on their price and benefits, enroll your employees, and consolidate billing.

    More information on SHOP will be available in our 12 Days of Covered California Coverage, which we'll post all month long only on Facebook! We understand you have to SHOP for the holidays, so it’s in our best interest that we deliver small doses of knowledge each day for the rest of the month.

 Happy SHOPping!

29 November 2012

California Health Exchange 101

Posted in Covered California

California Health Exchange 101

    Imagine you’re cramming for an important test. It doesn’t involve parallel parking, reaching a Goblet of Fire, or understanding what follows SCISSORS : CUT :: on the SATs. Oh yeah, and President Obama is your professor. The government will require most Americans to have health insurance by 2014. We’ve had months to study for the test that is “Obamacare” and most of us have procrastinated understanding the details.

    Now everyone’s buzzing about "Health Care Exchanges", "Health Insurance Exchanges", "the Exchanges". This just in! Exchanges have been renamed yet again to "marketplace" to avoid confusion during translation. Well no wonder everyone avoids the subject when no one knows which name to use! If you feel behind, you’re not alone. Lucky for us, it’s never too late to learn.

    Question 1: What is an Exchange?
     Let me save you the trouble of "wikipediaing" it. "Health Insurance Exchange", "Health Exchange", or just plain 'ole "the Exchange" all mean the same thing: a market place organized by each state for consumers to purchase health insurance plans. By 2014 every state must set up its own Exchange.

    Think of the Exchange as for health insurance, a website where you view and compare multiple plans for the best deal which fits your needs.

    The mission of "Covered California" is to increase the number of insured Californians, improve health care quality, lower costs, and reduce health disparities through an innovative, competitive marketplace that empowers consumers to choose the health plan and providers that give them the best value.

    Question 2: What if I don’t get health insurance?

    There’s a penalty, and the amount will go up each year for the first three years.

  •   In 2014, you'll pay $95 or 1 percent of your taxable income, whichever is greater.
  •  In 2015, the fine will be $325 or 2 percent of taxable income.
  • In 2016 the penalty will be $695 or 2.5 percent of income.
  •  Each year after 2016, the government will refigure the fine based on a cost-of-living adjustment.

    Question 3: What if I can’t afford health insurance?

    If you and your family meet certain qualifications, the government will offer tax credits (subsidies) which lower the maximum amount of premium you have to pay for health insurance. All you have to do is enroll in one of the new state-run insurance Exchanges.

  • If your income falls between 133 and 400 percent of the federal poverty levels (FPL*), you won't have to pay more than 2 percent of your income in premiums.
  • *FPL is $10,830 for an individual and $22,050 for a family of four.
  • If your income is 400 percent of FPL, your premium costs won't be more than 9.5 percent of your income.

   If you have any questions you’d like answered by us, please comment below and we’ll be sure to address them!

  For all your health insurance needs, call Haronian Insurance at 818.251.5000 or click here for a free health insurance quote!