Despite the fact that California, with 38.8 million residents, has virtually double the number of the state of Florida, which holds 19.9 million, Covered California, the California health-insurance exchange, has been surpassed by Florida’s as the largest in the nation.
According to federal health officials, by the end of March 2015, 1.36 million Californians had signed up, chosen their plan and paid their premiums; 1.42 million Floridians had done the same. Texas ranked third, with at least 966,400 Texans enrolled.
California supporters derided the claim that Florida had reached the top by insisting that Florida did not expand Medicaid, thus making the market for the health exchange larger because uninsured and low-income candidates could enroll, while in California Medi-Cal numbers have risen over three million.
Anthony Wright, executive director at Health Access, told the San Francisco Business Times, “It’s apples to oranges. A lot of people were eligible for subsidies in the Florida exchange because the state didn’t expand Medicaid.”
California officials have reason for concern, though: by the start of 2016, Covered California has to be self-sufficient, and the exchange must derive its funding from enrolled members.
In a desperate attempt to catalyze more enrollment after open enrollment ended February 15, Covered California offered a special enrollment period in which consumers could enroll if they had “experienced a qualifying life event.” Some of those “events” included: losing health coverage; turning 26 years old and becoming ineligible to stay on parents’ insurance; a change in place of residency; having a child or adopting a child; and others.
Covered California has been considered the flagship for the program as a whole; though it has suffered technical glitches; funding shortfalls; low second-year enrollments; and accusations of conflict of interest and fraud. Consumers give the program only one star on Yelp.