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California's health exchange considers a fruity new name

August 24, 2012|By Chad Terhune
  • California produces more than 90% of the U.S. avocado crop. But can the fruit help sell health insurance?
California produces more than 90% of the U.S. avocado crop. But can the fruit… (Mark Boster/Los Angeles…)

Want to buy health insurance from an avocado? California thinks you might.

Officials at the California Health Benefit Exchange, knowing their new online marketplace for medical insurance is a mouthful, are considering some new brand names to generate buzz with millions of consumers.

"Avocado: A uniquely California approach to affordable healthcare" was one possibility presented at a board meeting Thursday.

Other names tossed around were CaliHealth, Wellquest, Health Hub, Eureka and Condor. Officials said the monikers must still undergo more consumer testing and research before a final decision is made later this year.

Enrollment in the exchange begins in October 2013 with policies taking effect in January 2014.

Marketing is crucial for the new exchange, which is responsible under the federal healthcare law for enrolling nearly 2 million new people in Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program for the poor, and helping an additional 2 million Californians purchase coverage with federal subsidies.

The state exchange, like some others across the country, will negotiate with insurers for the best rates and assist consumers and small businesses in choosing a plan by separating them into five categories based on cost and level of benefits.

Kim Belshe, an exchange board member and former state health official, said "I am drawn to avocado."

Diana Dooley, chairwoman of the exchange board and secretary of California's Health and Human Services agency, said she thought CaliHealth might appeal to younger consumers, a key target audience among the uninsured.

Condor may not send the right message since it's a vulture and it has battled extinction, said Robert Ross, another board member and chief executive of the California Endowment.

Avocados certainly have a distinct California flavor. The state's nearly 5,000 avocado growers produce more than 90% of the nation's avocado crop.

The marketing folks at Calavo Growers Inc. in Santa Paula, the state's biggest avocado producer, initially laughed when told about the possible tie-in with health insurance, deductibles and co-pays. But they welcomed the free publicity.

"I think it would be fantastic and I hope they pick it," said Lee Cole, chief executive at Calavo. "Avocados are probably one of the healthiest foods around."

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