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Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Obamacare Is New, But Insurance 'Churn" Goes On

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Jacobs’ team also estimated churn in the Medi-Cal program. They predict nearly 75 percent of enrollees will stay in Medi-Cal for a 12-month period; about 16 percent will become eligible for Covered California due to an increase in income; and about 10 percent will land jobs that offer health insurance.

Prior to the Affordable Care Act, the study showed, 55 percent of Medi-Cal enrollees stayed in the program for 12 months. The authors noted that the Medi-Cal population was expected to be more stable because, under the ACA, re-enrollment in the program happens every 12 months instead of every 6, and the process is more automated.

In calculating their estimates, the researchers relied upon data from the Survey of Income Program and Participation from the U.S. Census Bureau. “This policy brief predicts a significant level of churn out of Medi-Cal and Covered California each year,” the authors noted. “Enrollment in Medi-Cal and Covered California will be dynamic as Californians move in and out of coverage.”

In addition to the 40 percent of enrollees who move to Medi-Cal or job-based insurance, between 2 and 8 percent of those who sign up for Covered California will become uninsured, the analysis noted.

Yet just as people will move out of Covered California and Medi-Cal, other people will move in. While open enrollment in Covered California ended on Monday (with a grace period until April 15 for people who had tried to enroll, but could not for technical reasons), many people are expected to sign up if they experience a life event that triggers a “special enrollment period.” These events include divorce, marriage, birth of a baby or loss of job-based insurance.

“Consequently, it will be vital for the enrollment infrastructure—from outreach, to the web-site, to in-person and call-center assistance—to be available and active even outside of open enrollment periods,” the authors said.

Medi-Cal does not have enrollment periods. Sign ups can happen at any time during the year.

This story is part of a collaboration that includes KQED, NPR and Kaiser Health News.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Wed, Apr 2 2014

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