By Timm Herdt, Ventura County Star, Calif.
June 28--The director of the state's Health Benefit Exchange -- the entity that will operate the marketplace through which Californians will be able to purchase subsidized health insurance beginning in 2014 -- said today the state is moving "full speed ahead" to create a system that will make it as easy to purchase health insurance "as buying a book on Amazon or shoes on Zappos."
Executive director Peter Lee said he hopes today's Supreme Court decision will focus public attention on how the federal healthcare law will actually work. "People want to put the politics aside and make healthcare work for all Californians," he said.
California was the first state to create a benefit exchange, which each state must do under the federal reform. The exchanges will contract with health plans to offer consumers a variety of choices that meet minimum coverage standards. Consumers could still buy directly from insurance companies, but in order to access federal subsidies for individual coverage they would have to purchase plans through the exchange.
Lee noted that most Californians who do not receive coverage either through their employer or from Medicare or Medi-Cal will be eligible for sliding-scale subsidies that will make individual insurance policies affordable.
The subsidies will be available to individuals and families with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. Those on the lower end of that scale, he said, will be eligible for substantial subsidies -- a family of four with an income of $35,000, for example, would receive a monthly subsidy of about $1,000 a month, reducing their out-of-pocket cost to purchase insurance to about $100.
A study by the University of California Berkeley Labor Center estimates that about 2 million Californians will be eligible for subsidies, including more than 40,000 in Ventura County.
Lee said pre-enrollment for consumers wishing to purchase through the exchange will begin in October 2013. The goal, he said, will be to attract "as many of the individuals who are eligible for subsidized care into the exchange as we can."
The maximum income level for eligibility is $93,000 for a family of four, he said.
(c)2012 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
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