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Few California voters know much about healthcare overhaul, poll shows

August 21, 2013|By Chad Terhune
  • Covered California's executive director, Peter Lee, answers questions last week about the state's new health insurance marketplace at a town hall in Norwalk.
Covered California's executive director, Peter Lee, answers questions… (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Los…)

A large majority of California voters know very little or nothing at all about the state's new health insurance marketplace less than six weeks before enrollment starts, according to a new poll.

The Field Poll released Wednesday found that just 25% of California voters under 65 said they've heard a lot or some about Covered California, the state's new insurance exchange opening Oct. 1.

Awareness dipped even further among the uninsured: Only 18% of those voters said they know much about it.

The findings illustrate the challenges state officials face in spreading the word about the federal health law and how a new state-run insurance market may affect as many as 5 million Californians who don't get coverage from their employer.

Fewer than half of voters whose income, age and insurance status qualify them for benefits under the Affordable Care Act know about their eligibility, according to the poll.

The nonpartisan Field Poll surveyed 1,687 California voters in June and July using a grant from the California Wellness Foundation.

Story gallery: Healthcare law comes to California

Those surveyed did indicate a willingness to learn more. Statewide, 65% of voters under 65 said they're interested in finding out more about Covered California and the new health plans available. The figure was even higher at 83% among the uninsured.

Covered California has been ramping up its marketing and outreach across the state in recent months. The agency has been holding town hall meetings, issuing outreach grants to community groups and preparing an ad campaign for this fall.

Enrollment in the state exchange opens Oct. 1 for policies that take effect in January. Starting next year, most Americans have to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty of $95 per adult or 1% of household income, whichever is greater.

Many lower- and middle-income Californians will qualify for federal premium subsidies to help make coverage more affordable. The state plans to roll out a new online calculator this month allowing consumers to compare rates on specific health plans in their area.

At a town hall last week in East Los Angeles, Covered California board member Robert Ross said there's a lot to do in a short amount of time.

"We are feeling the pressure. This is our Super Bowl," Ross said. "One thing we can guarantee is we won't get everything right."


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