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Obamacare and California: You have questions, we'll get the answers

Peter Lee, Covered California executive director, will oversee implementation of the Affordable Care Act in California.
Peter Lee
Peter Lee, Covered California executive director, will oversee implementation of the Affordable Care Act in California.

Peter Lee of Covered California joins Larry for a discussion about how his team plans to implement the healthcare exchange in our state.

Covering California series icon 2013

Key parts of the Affordable Care Act — popularly known as Obamacare — take effect in 2014, but by October this year, Californians will be able to shop for health insurance and compare plans through Covered California, the state's health insurance exchange.

Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, joins Larry for a discussion about how his team plans to implement the healthcare exchange in our state. 

What would you like to know? Do you have any questions about how the exchange works? What about the possible impact it will have on California's finances? Will your healthcare costs go up?

Covered California customer service representatives are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 1-(888) 975-1142.


Stephanie O'Neill, KPCC Health Care Reporter

Peter Lee, director of Covered California

Q & A Highlights:

How many companies will operate in LA?:
"Southern California will be split into two regions, North and South and the same six companies will represent both areas, they're Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, HealthNet, Kaiser Permanente, LA Care and Molina."

On whether the plans will be affordable to most people:
"There was a lot of concern of rate shock. That we were going to have a massive rate shock when these health plans joined the exchange. Covered California officials are very pleased about this and President Obama talked about it when he came to California, saying we were kind of the leader and holding us up as an example of how this law is working. The concern about that though is there are a lot of things that will dictate how these prices will remain."

On how the rates will increase over time:
"The way the Affordable Care Act works, this is a super bare-bones description of it, but come January 1, 2014, every American is going to be required to have insurance. Most Americans get it through their employers, but those that don't get it through their employers are going to be required to purchase it. So you either purchase it or pay a penalty. Initially the penalty is really low, it's only $95 a year or 1% of income. Then it steps up in 2016 where its $695 a year or 2.5% of income and then that's indexed with inflation as the years progress."

What is the deadline limit for Covered California?
This year it will start Oct 1, 2013, and it will extend to March 31, 2014, but after that you're out of luck. You have to have insurance if you're buying it on the exchange, Covered California.

What are some of the biggest challenges?
"There's a couple of key challenges, one of them is just educating everybody of all different ages. About 2/3 of those who make less than $40,000 a year, those are predominantly the people who will be helped by this law, they really don't know enough about it to understand how it's going to help them. Educating the masses is going to be a gigantic task. The secondary task is letting the young invincibles, the 19-34-year-olds know that they're super important to the risk pool, so getting them to buy into this program and to buy insurance will be key to keeping it.

"There's about 2 million uninsured in California who range in age between 19 and 34, and those are the ones we want to get on there, They just need to know, the marketing is going to have to tell them that disease happens, and accidents happen."

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