60,000 Californians have chosen an Obamacare health plan so far

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange site on Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C.

Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looks at the HealthCare.gov insurance exchange site on Oct. 1 in Washington, D.C.

Covering California series icon 2013

A total of nearly 60,000 Californians have selected a plan under the Affordable Care Act as of Nov. 12, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said in a press release. That's almost double the 35,000 in federal totals released earlier in the day, which were through Nov. 2.

Lee said that 31,000 selected a health plan in October, with another 29,000 choosing one since then. That works out to more than 2,000 a day picking a plan so far in November, Lee said, double the rate of October.

Lee said that 75 percent of users said that the Covered California website was easy to use. "So all this stuff about glitches and computer problems should, hopefully, become a thing of the past," Lee said. He added that they face the challenge of educating Californians about the distinction between the glitch-filled federal HealthCare.gov site and California's CoveredCA.com.

"We’ve actually changed our marketing. We’re running radio ads that are saying, whatever you hear out there in the news, our website is working great," Lee said. "I’d rather have our advertising talking about affordability, and talking about changing your life and about peace of mind but we have to spend money now on advertising to sort of counter the media drum beat which is really a distraction from the core news, which is: affordable covereage is there for millions of Americans. 

Lee stressed that Dec. 15 is “a red letter day to get enrolled,” because that is the last day to sign up for coverage that starts Jan. 1.

Lee described outreach as "vital, critical." He said that to get the average 27-year-old to sign up, "we’ll need to talk to them seven or eight times" through TV, radio and social media.

"California's plan selection numbers strike me as a very good start," said Micah Weinberg, senior policy advisor for the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored advocacy organization. "We have yet to really engage our agent and navigator community, and enrollment fairs are just starting.  Lots of work to do, but California is showing the way."

Lee said he does not yet know how many people have signed up for health insurance outside of the Covered California marketplace. He said his agency will work the state Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance to see how many did so. He said Covered California would share that information when it has it.

He said Covered California will have to “drill down” into the numbers to discern how many of the people who have signed up for insurance previously had insurance, or were uninsured.

More than 106,000 Americans had chosen health plans nationally through Nov. 2, with a third of those coming from California.

It’s “unclear” what the impact would be in California if Congress changes the law to let people keep their individual health plans, even if they are out of compliance with ACA, Lee said.

They’re still crunching the numbers regarding who has signed up so far. But he predicted that the initial enrollees will not be on average the young and healthy, but rather “older folks or people with health conditions.”

Lee added that he expects that balance to “shift dramatically” in the months to come, as more young and healthy people, the so-called “Young Invincibles” needed to help keep overall costs down, sign up.

Covered California estimates there are 5.3 million Californians eligible to purchase health insurance plans under Obamacare. Of those, it estimates there are 2.6 million who are eligible for federal premium assistance and cost-sharing subsidies.
 
Covered California has no unsubsidized enrollment forecast until Jan. 2015, at which point it forecasts having enrolled about 1.7 million people.
 
Covered California forecasts subsidized enrollment by April 2014 being between 487,000 and 696,000.

This story has been updated.

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