Obamacare full steam ahead in Nevada County

A large share of this week’s headlines have been devoted to the debacle that is the dysfunctional rollout of the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation — the Affordable Care Act, more popularly known as Obamacare.

However, in Nevada County and the rest of California, the implementation of the health care exchange administered by Covered California has been, comparatively speaking, free of glitches that have marred the national effort, said Nevada County Director of Health and Human Services Agency Jeffrey Brown.

Under the legislation, states had the option to either develop their own exchange marketplace or simply use the one developed by the federal government, which can be accessed at healthcare.gov. California opted to develop its own exchange, and while the initial stages of its public introduction were also addled by technology glitches, poor training and frustrations for potential consumers and officials, those issues have been largely rectified, Brown said.

To date, 317 Nevada County households have applied online or through the phone to Covered California. Of those applications, 205 have been approved for some type of insurance program as of press time Friday. Covered California offers a variety of policies, some of which are subsidized according to income levels and some of which are not.

The applications of the other 112 households are likely pending until the process is finalized.

The Affordable Care Act further mandated an expansion of MediCal, which serves low-income childless adults. Nevada County has received about 130 applications for the program thus far, Brown said.

The HHS Agency director acknowledged that the flurry of enrollments are a positive step forward, especially when compared to the national effort, which is still bogged down by widespread technology malfunction, but he also said demand is still light.

A recent study conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles found that about 12,000 Nevada County residents (12 percent of the total population) are uninsured. Of the 12,000, about 4,000 would qualify for MediCal, the state program that serves low-income families. Another 4,000 would qualify for tax subsidies, with the remainder possessing relatively high annual incomes.

“I think we’re expecting outreach activities to lead to demand increase,” Brown said. “We’ve been working very diligently, and this system truly seems to address people’s needs. We are seeing improvement on a daily basis.”

However, the federal government’s version of the exchange is still riddled with problems, according to the Associated Press.

The Obama administration acknowledged the wide extent of its health care website’s problems Friday and abruptly turned to a private company to oversee urgent fixes, according to the AP.

Setting a new timetable, officials said most issues will be repaired by the end of November.

It will take a lot of work, but “healthcare.gov is fixable,” declared Jeffrey Zients, a management consultant brought in by the White House. By the end of next month, he said, there will be many fewer sign-up problems, such as computer screen freezes, but he stopped short of saying problems will completely disappear.

The federal government is running the insurance markets or taking the lead in 36 states, the AP writes.

Healthcare.gov was supposed to be the online portal for uninsured Americans to get coverage under President Barack Obama’s health care law. Envisioned as the equivalent of Amazon.com for health insurance, it became a huge bottleneck immediately upon launch Oct. 1.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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The Union Updated Oct 26, 2013 12:46AM Published Oct 28, 2013 06:54PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.