Affordable Care Act: 3.4M uninsured Californians now have health coverage

Last-minute applicants for health insurance jam the Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond, Calif., in April.
Last-minute applicants for health insurance jam the Bay Area Rescue Mission in Richmond, Calif., in April.
Eric Risberg/AP

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Covering California series icon 2013

Nearly six out of 10 Californians who were uninsured last summer now have health coverage, according to the first longitudinal survey to measure the impact of the Affordable Care Act on reducing the number of the uninsured statewide.  

The survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 3.4 million formerly uninsured Californians, or 58 percent of those who last summer reported themselves without insurance,  now have health coverage.

The Foundation interviewed 2,000 randomly-selected uninsured Californians last summer, before open enrollment began, and then again this spring as it came to an end. The margin of error is plus or minus four percentage points.

The largest share — about a quarter of those surveyed — gained it through the expansion of Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program. About 12 percent report now having insurance through an employer, while 14  percent say they're covered by individual policies (9 percent of which were bought on the state's health insurance marketplace, Covered California — the remaining 5 percent purchased unsubsidized insurance outside the marketplace). 

"That leaves 42 percent still uninsured," says  Mollyann Brodie, Kaiser Foundation senior vice president and executive director of the foundation's public opinion and survey research. "For the first time we can shed some light on what made them likely to get insurance and what didn't and what some of the challenges are going to be in the second round of open enrollment."

The survey found more Latinos enrollment than many had expected, with 61 percent of eligible Latinos gaining health coverage. That matched the signup rates for uninsured whites and blacks. 

It also found a 58 percent increase in coverage among formerly uninsured 19-to 34-year-olds surveyed.  

Not all of the remaining uninsured can get health coverage. Those in the U.S. illegally are ineligible.

For those who are eligible, advocates are focusing on how to encourage them to get it. 

Brodie says most of the "still-uninsured" cited cost as among the most significant barriers to coverage. Yet, she says, six out of ten are actually eligible for financial assistance. 

"The real message has to be financial help is available so they can really understand that their perceived barrier of cost and affordability might not be such a barrier," she says.

Other hurdles cited by the still uninsured respondents: difficulty in finding information about signing up for insurance and difficulty in shopping for and comparing plans.

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