SACRAMENTO (AP) — Heading into a third enrollment season with less fanfare and a more modest budget, California health exchange officials said Thursday they will strategically target about 750,000 uninsured people who qualify for health insurance subsidies but haven’t signed up for coverage.
The agency will spend $29 million on an advertising campaign aimed at lower-income and middle-class residents who don’t know there’s help available to pay for health insurance, Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said. That compares to a $43 million advertising budget last year and $55 million the first year.
In addition, Covered California will host enrollment drives at more than 500 storefronts as well as clinics and hospitals throughout the state.
A bus tour will begin in Los Angeles on Nov. 1, the first day of the three-month enrollment season.
“It’s big news that Californians still don’t know the basics that they can get financial help to get coverage,” Lee said Thursday in a call with reporters.
The state-run health exchange launched in October 2013 under the federal Affordable Care Act. It offers sliding-scale subsidies for private coverage to people with no access to health care on the job and directs low-income people to Medi-Cal, the state’s health program for the poor.
As a result, California has reduced the number of uninsured by millions.
Covered California estimates about 4 million Californians do not have health insurance, half of whom don’t qualify because they are in the country illegally. Another 1.4 million are eligible for Medi-Cal but haven’t signed up.
Lee said the agency will use the upcoming enrollment season to target a remaining pool of about 750,000 Californians eligible for Covered California subsidies.
The campaign will advertise to Hispanics, African-Americans, younger people and those who make higher incomes.
While people who are lower-income have been signing up in high numbers, those who qualify for less subsidy because they make more money have not been signing up as fast. Officials don’t know why they have not been enrolling.
“They may be signing off the exchange without subsidies and that’s a piece of information we don’t know,” Lee said.
He said Covered California has done a good job reaching minorities but acknowledges there’s more work to do. For example, Lee said the agency found it was effective at reaching African-Americans through church partnerships.
Also, a survey commissioned by Covered California found more Californians learned about the exchange through the news than through paid advertising, which Lee said was surprising.
Last season, Covered California fell short of its goal to sign up 1.7 million people for private insurance. Currently, the exchange has 1.3 million active members and the state is expecting to add between 295,000 and 450,000 people during the third enrollment period.