Nov. 1 marks the beginning of California’s three-month open enrollment period for health coverage. As the pandemic continues on across the state, critical decisions about health coverage for consumers and their families will prove to be especially important this time around.
L.A. Care Health Plan, one of the 11 carriers offering plans on the Covered California Marketplace and the nation’s largest publicly-operated health plan, announced on Monday that its L.A. Care Covered product offers the most affordable rates across all metal levels in Los Angeles County.
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The American Rescue Plan (ARP), with its rich subsidies, made health care significantly more affordable for consumers in 2021. Due to this increased affordability, a record number of 1.6 million people have been enrolled in Covered California, giving the state one of the healthiest consumer pools in the nation for the seventh consecutive year.
ARP will continue to provide lower premiums and expanded financial assistance throughout the entire 2022 coverage year. Starting in Jan. 2022, some consumers will have full premium relief with a monthly premium of zero, thanks to both federal and state subsidies.
Cristina Inglese, executive director of commercial products for L.A. Care Health Plan, expressed her excitement about the continuation of ARP subsidies.
“[This] is a huge accomplishment in ensuring that continuum of care for those individuals that may have had hardship during this difficult time, and may have lost group insurance.”
L.A. Care’s rates have proven to be even lower than the state average for 2022. Due to record enrollment and the healthy consumer pool, the state average rate increase for 2022 is only 1.8%, while L.A. Care’s average rate decreased by 2.9%. This rate decrease is much greater than other plans offered on California’s commercial market.
Inglese said that, beyond affordability, quality of care is also a major consideration for consumers when they look at their options in the market, and something L.A. Care is also leading the country in.
“I think people do genuinely first think about affordability. But also, data really demonstrates that the second closest thing that is really near and dear to shoppers is, ‘What is the doctor that I can access? What is the medical group? What is the urgent care and the ER?’”
Inglese said L.A. Care, in particular, has grown to have one of the largest networks of health care providers in Los Angeles county, having partnerships with large entities such as Optum and UCLA Health Care in efforts to ensure that members have plenty of options for their care.
Covered California also said they were committed to health equity work and addressing disparities. Inglese discussed L.A. Care’s efforts to get low-income communities on health insurance.
“Data from the past especially [has shown] the demographic that we tend to attract is usually a population within the federal poverty level of 150 to 250. And the data demonstrates that these individuals will make a decision to shop and compare for as little as $1, because $1 a month actually makes a difference for these households. And so affordability is really important because we know that we are on the exchange to provide health care coverage to this particular demographic that otherwise would not have the opportunity to shop for insurance.”
Covered California has said that it will continue working to improve the quality of care delivered to consumers and hold carriers accountable for providing high-quality and equitable health, with plans to launch a Quality Transformation Initiative in 2023 that will tie financial penalties to poor performance on key quality measures like colon cancer screening and diabetes control.
Inglese also commented on L.A. Care’s efforts to address the social determinants of health of their members.
“I think that we’re seeing the value of integrating other products and services alongside health care … the work that we do in our community with the partnerships that we have with food shelters, with supporting the homeless, we understand the cyclical work that needs to happen in order to keep the community healthy. It’s not just access to the doctor, but being able to have a continuum with … home safety, food safety, and access to medication.”