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Olsen fields questions on Covered Calif.

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POSTED November 13, 2013 12:56 a.m.

Kristin Olsen has her personal feelings about the Affordable Care Act.

She just didn’t see the point in voicing them during a forum Tuesday night that was supposed to help Ripon residents acclimate themselves to California’s extension of the Federal healthcare reform package overhaul.

Instead, the Republican Assemblywoman from Modesto – who also represents Ripon and Manteca in California’s 12th Assembly District – brought representatives from Covered California to field questions about the rollout that has been awash in controversy ever since the window allowing residents to sign-up for the moderated exchanges opened on Oct. 1.

“Regardless of whether you think we should move in this direction or not – it’s here,” Olsen said. “The Supreme Court of the United States upheld it, and now it’s up to us to learn how to work within it. That’s what we’re here for tonight.”

Through local clinics that employ enrollment specialists specifically trained in helping patients made the right selection in California’s open markets, Covered California – one of 17 state-specific satellites of the Affordable Care Act – relies on a county-by-county system to pair those who seek insurance with the plan that best suits them.

What is available in San Francisco, for example, might not be available in Stockton. The rates are determined not on pre-existing conditions or a overall physical health but a sliding scale that measures a person’s age, dependent status and overall income.

A 25-year-old male from Merced that was making $22,000-a-year, according to one example, would pay between $87-a-month and $151-a-month depending on whether he chose Anthem Blue Shield or Health Net.  A married couple with two children living in the same area making $65,000-a-year would have selections that ranged between $395 and $642 monthly.

Part of the reason that initial costs are higher than what was promised, Olsen said, is that the people who are registering are the people with the preexisting conditions that are something excluded by insurance companies – thus driving up the risk pool. Younger, healthier consumers are either wary of jumping in right off of the bat, she said, or are willing to roll the dice with their health. Others see it as more cost-effective just to pay the fine and go about their business.

But it’s the unanswerable questions – like the one that local tax preparer Rich Silverman lodged – that have residents frustrated. Silverman said that some of his clients were financially devastated when the market turned – losing their houses and every penny they owned – and thus haven’t bothered to file federal income taxes since then. He wanted to know whether applying for medical coverage would be akin to turning themselves in because the Internal Revenue Service checks the reported income of every applicant.

Olsen said that she’ll take the questions that were asked Tuesday back with her to Sacramento and post as many answers as she can to her website. One of the items of note was trying to figure out the best way to promote the system with younger residents – the way that Massachusetts did when they adopted a similar healthcare system years before the Affordable Care Act became law – so that the risk pool could be diluted and adjusted accordingly. 

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