Most Who Leave California Exchange Get Other Insurance Coverage

About one-third of the 2 million consumers who bought health insurance through Covered California later left the state’s insurance marketplace – most for other coverage, according to new data released Thursday.

The vast majority of those who left – nearly 85 percent — stayed insured, according to the release by Covered California.

The data highlight the on-again-off-again nature of the individual insurance market, with many people leaving because of common life changes such as getting a job or getting married.

“For many, Covered California is not an end point,” executive director, Peter Lee, said during a call Thursday with reporters. “It is part of their journey of ensuring they have insurance coverage, often moving from one source of coverage to another.”

Among those who left, about 44 percent got insurance through work, 13 percent purchased other private coverage and 16 percent switched to Medi-Cal, the program for low-income Californians.

It’s unclear whether the transition interrupted their care or whether they were able to continue seeing the same doctors following the move.

The movement isn’t surprising because employment and incomes often fluctuate, said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “There has always been churn in the individual market,” he said. “People’s circumstances change.”

What is concerning, however, is the 15 percent who became uninsured, he said. Kominski said more needs to be known about who they are and why that occurred.

“Why would somebody drop coverage?” he said. “I would have to assume that is an affordability issue.”

Kominski said Covered California and others need to do a better job of educating consumers on what they can expect to pay overall so they don’t choose plans solely based on monthly premiums without consideration of out-of-pocket costs.

Issued just weeks before enrollment reopens for the third year, the report also provided a detailed look at the 1.3 million consumers in the marketplace as of the end of June, how much they are paying in premiums and what type of plan they chose.

Despite early criticism, Covered California has made some progress in enrolling Latinos into the marketplace. About 30 percent of subsidy-eligible enrollees are Latino, while the estimated percentage of Latinos eligible for subsidies in the state is about 37.

Lee acknowledged that the exchange has further to go in reaching African Americans. About 2.4 percent of subsidy-eligible enrollees are black, compared to about 5 percent believed to be eligible in the state.

Nine of 10 consumers on the exchange receive subsidies to purchase health insurance, and the average premium for those people is $157, according to the report.

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