Covered California Director Peter Lee said on Thursday that improving health care literacy remains the state’s top task.
Lee, a vocal cheerleader for his state’s Obamacare exchange, claims 3.3 million Californians have enrolled and that the program is “relatively succeeding.” Lee admitted that 60% of Californians who enrolled through the state’s Obamacare exchange needed a counselor’s assistance to do so.
“Enrollment is not as easy as buying a book on Amazon; it’s more like doing taxes on TurboTax,” said Lee.
A study published in the Journal of Health Economics found that only 14% of individuals with health coverage could accurately answer four basic questions about insurance, including knowing what “deductible” and “copay” mean. Analysts worry that if health insurance literacy is that low for the insured, individuals who have never had insurance and are only now receiving it for the first time may be in for a rude awakening when they realize the severity of Obamacare’s narrow networks.
Indeed, Covered California customers have already experienced unwelcome surprises. Last week the California Medical Association announced that nearly 1,000 California physicians were listed on the state’s Obamacare exchange who do not accept the plans.
Guda Venkatesh said he learned about the doctor bait-and-switch the hard way.
“When I started going through the doctors, each one and calling them up, none of them actually accepted the Covered California plan,” he said. “The premise of Covered California is that you’re able to compare plans and see which one is best for you. But if they are presenting that they have all these doctors in network but they don’t, then it doesn’t work.”
Another lesson of health care literacy some new Obamacare enrollees may face is the importance of paying premiums on time. Covered California claims that only 15% of its enrollees have yet to pay their first premium. In Georgia, however, the nonpayment rate is over 50%. Moreover, according to the Washington Post, one-quarter of those who qualify for Obamacare subsidies do not even have a bank account from which to pay their monthly premiums.
Still, Lee lauds his state’s Obamacare exchange and says “folks across the state have helped make history.”
Obamacare will cost U.S. taxpayers $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years.
Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/AP