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COVERED CALIFORNIA LAUNCHES RENEWAL FOR MORE THAN 1.1 MILLION ENROLLEES AND ANNOUNCES NEW INITIATIVES FOR NEXT OPEN-ENROLLMENT PERIOD

Lessons Learned from Initial Open Enrollment Applied to Major Changes for Upcoming Open Enrollment Nov. 15 to Feb. 15

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced it has begun the renewal process for 1.12 million individuals who enrolled in plans in the exchange last year and unveiled substantial new improvements to facilitate enrollment in coverage for 2015.

“Last year, we succeeded in signing up millions of Californians in health coverage through Covered California and Medi-Cal,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “We learned a great deal in the process, and in this second open enrollment we are building on those lessons using effective and concrete changes.”

The first wave of renewal notices was sent to consumers on Wednesday. Consumers who complete the renewal process will hear from their insurance plans in December. Their selected health plan will send a statement reflecting coverage starting Jan. 1, 2015. Consumers who take no action will be renewed into their existing plan.

Individuals who have health coverage through Medi-Cal renew their coverage throughout the year, on a rolling monthly schedule. Medi-Cal will contact them directly if they need to take action. Unless they are contacted by Medi-Cal, these individuals do not need to go to the Covered California website to renew or apply.

Covered California also provided updated enrollment numbers for 2014 on Thursday. Of the Californians who selected a plan during the initial open enrollment, 1,140,000 (or 81 percent) had their coverage take effect by paying their first month’s premium. Today, a total of 1.12 million individuals have effectuated coverage and will be part of the renewal process. Covered California expects this number to increase as special enrollment continues and as recent enrollees effectuate their coverage, with about 1.3 million Californians participating in the renewal process through the end of the year.

For more information about the enrollment numbers, see the October 2014 “Individual Market Enrollment Report” online at http://news.CoveredCA.com/p/covered-california-individual-market.html.

“This is our very first experience with renewal, and we will learn things during this process just as we learned a great deal about open enrollment during 2013-2014. We do believe many significant improvements have been made that will assist our consumers during both renewal and open enrollment this year,” Lee said.

In the meantime, Covered California continues to gear up for open enrollment, which will begin Nov. 15 and continue through Feb. 15. Open enrollment is the next opportunity for all Californians to benefit from new insurance rules, including the requirement that insurance be offered regardless of health status. In addition, this is the window of time when Californians can buy subsidized coverage starting in 2015.

Covered California has adopted changes, guided by a newly released report titled “Covered California Open Enrollment 2013-2014: Lessons Learned,” to improve consumers’ experience. The report commissioned by Covered California offers an in-depth look at Covered California’s work during the first open-enrollment period. It is available online at www.CoveredCA.com/resources/PDFs/10-14-2014-Lessons-Learned-final.pdf.

“We know this open-enrollment period will be more challenging in some ways. Consumers will only have three months to enroll, compared with the six months they had last time. This is complicated by our knowledge that many who are uninsured have adapted to a culture of coping and have become accustomed to living without health insurance,” Lee said.

With less than one month before open enrollment begins, consumers can begin the process of shopping for 2015 coverage. They can find out if they are eligible for financial assistance and find out how much a health plan will cost them, by using Covered California’s Shop and Compare Tool (on CoveredCA.com atwww.CoveredCA.com/shopandcompare/#calculator). Covered California also offers a full listing of the plans and their rates in the booklet “Health Insurance Companies and Plan Rates for 2015” (online at www.CoveredCA.com/PDFs/CC-health-plans-booklet-2015.pdf)

Following are the top lessons learned and the ways that Covered California is improving its work for the coming open-enrollment period.

The volume of consumer interest and interactions exceeded expectations and challenged all systems and service channels. As a result:

  • Covered California will start open enrollment with more than double the number of Service Center representatives — state employed and contractors — to dramatically reduce wait times and help consumers enroll. More than 1,300 representatives will help consumers over the phone, by chat or by processing their paper applications or documents. The majority of these representatives are state employees working in Rancho Cordova and Fresno, but two private vendors — Faneuil and Maximus — will operate call centers to boost capacity during this period. Last year, Covered California began open enrollment with 381 Service Center representatives and ended with 709.
  • While the vast majority of consumers are served in their own languages by Covered California staff, the capacity of the Service Center will be expanded more in order to serve callers in Spanish, Chinese and other languages without the use of interpreters. This year Covered California will have 254 Service Center representatives able to serve consumers in languages other than English, compared with 55 during open enrollment in 2013.
  • Service Center hours — including phone service and online chat — have been expanded to accommodate consumers after hours, with representatives now available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. In addition, the Service Center will be open on many Sundays during open enrollment, including every Sunday from Nov. 16 through Dec. 15.
  • Covered California is working with health plans to make it possible for consumers to make their first premium payment online as soon as they have selected a plan. This will give consumers peace of mind that they have evidence that their payment has been received and that they will have coverage in place.
  • To meet high consumer demand, Covered California spent $22.6 million to upgrade the enrollment portal infrastructure to allow for greater user capacity and speedier page loads so that consumers do not have to return later to complete an application.
  • For self-service, Covered California is redesigning its interactive voice response (IVR) system to handle more consumer calls while decreasing wait times and updating consumers on wait times when they are placed on hold.
  • Covered California is continuing to make significant improvements so that notices consumers receive are clearer, explanations on the website are better — in both English and Spanish — and the consumer experience is more seamless.

Many consumers are new to insurance and need extensive education about health insurance terminology, how to enroll in coverage and how to use insurance. As a result:

  • Advertising this year features real Californians speaking to the ways that coverage has benefited them as a result of the Affordable Care Act, including testimonials from people who were able to get vital care as a result of their coverage. The volume of advertising will taper down in the coming two weeks and then ramp up significantly before open enrollment starts on Nov. 15.
  • Realizing that Certified Enrollment Counselors and Certified Insurance Agents are some of the agency’s strongest connections to consumers, Covered California is giving these valued partners enhanced and expanded tools to educate enrollees, including biweekly webinars, training from subject matter experts, a bimonthly newsletter to highlight best practices and modifications to the enrollment process, and an updated glossary of terminology.
  • This year, Covered California will expand dedicated call lines to help Certified Insurance Agents and Certified Enrollment Counselors help consumers during the application process.

Most consumers relied on a variety of touch points, including in-person assistance, to successfully complete enrollment. As a result:

  • Covered California’s partners will open more than 200 storefronts in retail locations, such as malls, to help serve consumers on a drop-in basis that meets their scheduling needs. Consumers can get help at these sites to enroll, renew and learn more about health coverage options.
  • Covered California will begin the open-enrollment period with more than 12,000 Certified Insurance Agents, 10,000 county eligibility workers, and 6,400 Certified Enrollment Counselors to help educate and enroll consumers. To get free, confidential, in-person assistance, consumers should visit CoveredCA.com and click “Find Help Near You.”
  • Enrollment of African-Americans, Latinos and Asian-Americans will be emphasized and broadened through targeted advertising in relevant media outlets, through Navigator grants supporting in-person enrollment guidance from expert communicators specializing in outreach to underserviced communities, and through engagement of African-American churches to host community-wide enrollment events.

“We are extremely excited about the changes we have put in place, and we look forward to building on the enthusiasm around open enrollment this year as we did last year,” Lee said, noting that more than 70 events are scheduled in the Los Angeles area alone between now and Nov. 15. “The Affordable Care Act is working, and it is changing the lives of people for the better.

“At the same time, we know we have more work to do. We want Covered California to deliver best-in-class customer service, and we know we’re not there yet,” Lee said. “But we’re getting better every week, and we will continue to learn and improve.”

Covered California offers a range of choices of private health insurance plans. Consumers can choose the health plan and level of coverage (Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum) that best meets their health needs and budget.

About Covered California

Covered California is the state’s marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Covered California, in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services, was charged with creating a new health insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to affordable health insurance plans. Covered California helps individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance that is available on a sliding-scale basis to reduce insurance costs or whether they are eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Small businesses can purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the new market work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the Legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.

1,920 Backpacks Donated To County Schools’ Homeless Education Program

County Schools' Deputy Superintendent Ted Alejandre (left) puts supplies in backpacks, along with County Schools' Homeless Education specialist Brenda Dowdy (left) and Earl Smith, coordinator of Child, Welfare and Attendance for County Schools.

County Schools’ Deputy Superintendent Ted Alejandre (left) puts supplies in backpacks, along with County Schools’ Homeless Education specialist Brenda Dowdy (left) and Earl Smith, coordinator of Child, Welfare and Attendance for County Schools.

SAN BERNARDINO, CA- The Homeless Education program for the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools soon will distribute a shipment of 1,920 backpacks donated by the national organization, Feed The Children, to homeless students across the county. The backpacks are stuffed with accompanying school supplies, books, snacks and hygiene products.

Feed The Children, which was founded in 1979, distributed more than $344 million in food, essentials, education supplies and medicine to more than 10 million individuals last year. The organization delivered its backpacks and supplies to County Schools’ Homeless Education program on October 7.

During the last reporting year, more than 35,700 homeless students were reported countywide, said Brenda Dowdy, County Schools’ homeless education specialist.

Many of this year’s supplies will be delivered during the week of Oct. 20 to 30 districts across the county.

For more information about the donations of the County Schools’ Homeless Education program, contact Dowdy at (909) 386-2634.

 

“It’s Your Thang Do Whatcha Wanna Do!”

Lou Coleman

Lou Coleman

By Lou Coleman

Nelson Mandala said,-“I Am the Master of my Fate and the Captain of my Destiny”… It’s true… The one thing in life which you have complete control over: You’re thinking!

Unfortunately, I have heard parents tell their children they were stupid and would never amount to anything. Ten years later, the child does not work, is on drugs, and is an alcoholic with a wasted life. Those words got into the heart and spirit of that child and directed that life. Everything said, came to pass!

Hear me and hear me good. If someone says to you, “You will never be successful.” “Your dreams will never come to pass” and you dwell on those words then by your own action you have given them life. Things people say about you cannot hurt you UNLESS planted, watered, and nurtured. What do I mean? You plant it by believing it. You water and fertilize it by dwelling upon it. If you do that, it will produce fruit. You must realize that YOU control your own destiny through the power of YOUR WORDS. You cannot control what people say about you, but you can control if those words take root and grow in your life. Don’t you know that WHAT YOU SAY about yourself SUPERSEDES anything that anyone says about you? You need to begin saying about yourself what God says about you. God says, “You are more than a conquer” (Roman 8:37). God says, “You can do all things” (Phil 4:13). God says, “You are the head and not the tail. (Deut. 28:13.) God sees you, “healthy and prospering” (3 John 1:2). You are an overcomer (1 John 4:4). NOTHING CAN STOP YOU! Not even the Devil (1 John 2:14). Your attitude must be, “I don’t care what anyone says about me, I am destined to win. God is on my side. He has a plan to prosper me and give me a hope and a future.” Because if you are going to live a victorious life you must think victorious and not allow negative words to take root in your heart. Refuse them and begin speaking God’s vision for you over your own life. God’s plan for your life is so much larger than you have every imagined.

Remember David? He had a dream to be king of Israel. At every turn, people were negative. His dad left him out of the selection process when Samuel came to anoint the next King. With Goliath, David’s brother Eliab was negative towards him (1 Sam 17:28), but can I tell you what David did? David just turned away and kept pursuing success (1 Sam 17:30). Your family may not understand but don’t let that stop you. People in authority may not understand. David didn’t allow that to take root either. David saw himself as God saw him – Victorious! You got to see yourself as God sees you. It doesn’t matter what people say. I have been criticized in every way you can imagine, but I refuse to allow those words to take root. I refuse to allow those seeds to be planted. I am reminded of Isaiah 54:17 that says, “No weapon formed against thee shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment, thou shall condemn.” Do you hear what I’m saying to you?  We are the ones who are to condemn every tongue that accuses us.  And yes, I know that some of you have had people do nothing but push you down and tell you what you can’t do and what you will be. But I want to encourage and challenge you today. I want you to hear God saying, “You can do all things. You are destined to do great things. You are destined to sit on the throne.” God has seated you in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Break free from every trap set by negative words. Change your way of thinking and see yourself as God sees you. Refute every negative word formed against you.

King Solomon said it best: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). This is necessary for three reasons.   Your heart is extremely valuable. We don’t guard worthless things. I take my garbage to the street every Wednesday night. It is picked up on Thursday morning. It sits on the sidewalk all night, completely unguarded. Why? It is worthless. Not so with your heart. It is the essence of who you are. It is your authentic self – the core of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires, and your passions live. It is that part of you that connects with God and other people.  If your heart is unhealthy, it has an impact on everything else. It threatens your family, your friends, and your legacy. I tell you, it is therefore, imperative that you guard it.

When Solomon says to guard your heart, he implies that you are living in a combat zone – one in which there are casualties. Many of us are oblivious to the reality of this war. We have an enemy who is bent on our destruction he not only opposes God, but he opposes everything that is aligned with Him – including us. Satan uses all kinds of weapons to attack our heart, even our on family and friends. For me, these attacks often came in the form of some circumstance that led to disappointment, discouragement, or even disillusionment. In these situations, I was tempted to quit – to walk off the field and surrender. This is why if you and I are going to succeed and survive as individuals, we must guard our hearts. It is more important than we can possibly imagine.  If we lose heart, we have lost everything. Guard your heart. Don’t limit God and don’t limit yourself. God will take you to victory after victory. You will enjoy the abundant life that God has planned for you. Now give the Lord a shout. Amen!

Now to all you “Sanctified Christian, Wholly than Thou.” You need to stop saying things that hurt, offend or are actually untrue. You need to stop engaging in unhelpful gossip, as well as using any put-downs or derogatory language. This behavior not only hurts others, but also corrupts you. You might say that sometimes things just slip out, but is that really any excuse? According to the principles of “guarding your heart”, the answer is firmly “NO!” You need to think in appropriate Heavenly Kingdom ways, so that, as a result, you can speak in helpful and God-honoring ways. Now shout unto the Lord, Yes & Amen! “It’s Your Thang Do Whatcha Wanna Do!”