Up to 92 percent of Californians under 65 covered by Obamacare, study says

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Nine out of 10 Californians under the age of 65 will receive health coverage by 2019 with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally known as Obamacare, according to a study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center and the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Researchers from the centers developed a California Simulation of Insurance Markets computerized model to predict changes in health coverage in California under the act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March 2010. The study was funded by the California Health Benefit Exchange, an insurance marketplace for consumers scheduled to open in 2014 following the act.

Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center and co-author of the study said that the research will help the exchange establish priorities in a strategic direction for insurance policies and help the public understand the impact of the act.

“We have lots of demographic data like how does this break down by race, ethnicity, and language for outreach strategies,” Jacobs said. “… It is also important for the general public to understand the implications of the Affordable Care Act.”

According to the report, the CalSIM model uses two scenarios, one based on typical responses by consumers to expanded coverage offerings.

The more comprehensive scenario projects that between 89 and 92 percent of Californians under the age of 65 will have health coverage by 2019, compared to the 84 percent who will have health coverage without the act.

Richard Figueroa, director of Health & Human Services for California Endowment, a statewide private health foundation that supported CalSIM, said the study was important to his foundation because it wanted to make sure people had appropriate access to insurance under the act.

“Cal Endowment has a strong interest within the body of work in making sure policymakers in California have the right tools to figure out who would be covered and who would be left out in order to implement the appropriate response,” Figueroa said. “CalSIM is the direct outgrowth in our strong interest in policy and making sure the people are educated in the implications of (the act).”

Shawn Lewis, a UC Berkeley senior and executive director of Berkeley College Republicans, expressed opposition to the act after seeing the results of the study. Lewis said the number of people covered will not be much use if the healthcare costs are unsustainable.

“Healthcare reform needs to be fundamentally about cost control, not just about the number of people covered,” Lewis said in an email. “Under Obamacare, healthcare costs skyrocket, especially for college students.”

Lewis said the act makes it illegal for any insurance plan to cap benefits some colleges offer their students, making the costs for many student insurance plans increase significantly.

Despite the large proportion of people the act will impact, Jacobs said the results also projected that three to nearly four million will remain uninsured, including one million immigrants.

Jacobs said these numbers outline the purpose of the study, which is to show that outreach and cultural competency around the act is vital to the number of people who would benefit from the act.

“The key point in the model is that what is done around implementation matters a lot … All has to be done to make sure that (policies) are simple, easy, and culturally competent,” Jacobs said.