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Two-thirds of uninsured Californians gain coverage after Obamacare rollout

More than two-thirds of Californians uninsured before the Affordable Care Act now have coverage, a new report finds.

“For people that didn’t have health insurance, California has been very successful in enrolling two-thirds of that group,” said Mollyann Brodie, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which released the survey's findings Thursday. “But the group that is left is a harder-to-reach group.”

She said the survey results indicate that, for the most part, people who have obtained coverage are seeing the benefits of health insurance and having their medical needs met.

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The survey follows a group of 2,001 adults in California who were uninsured before the healthcare expansion under the Affordable Care Act in 2014.

Results of an earlier version of the survey released a year ago found that 58% of previously uninsured Californians had signed up for coverage after the first open enrollment period.

The recent survey found that 34% of the newly insured had enrolled in the state's low-income health program Medi-Cal, 14% had employer coverage, 12% signed up through Covered California and 8% had other coverage. Approximately 32% of uninsured Californians remain uninsured, down from 42% in spring 2014.

The survey's full sample had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. For the recently insured, it was plus or minus 5 percentage points and for the remaining uninsured it was plus or minus 8 percentage points.

The most common reason people cite for not signing up for insurance is affordability, with 44% saying it's the main reason. Forty percent of those who remain uninsured have never had insurance before, the survey found.

The biggest chunk of the remaining uninsured, 41%, are people who entered the country illegally. Those immigrants are barred from signing up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. 

Advocates have pushed this year for a statewide expansion of healthcare to such immigrants. Gov. Jerry Brown approved a plan last month that would provide healthcare to children in the country illegally, but not to adults. 

Daniel Zingale, senior vice president of the California Endowment, said in a statement that the rate of sign-ups shown by the findings was encouraging.

“But the survey results also demonstrate the work we still need to do, to make sure the remaining uninsured get the access they need to affordable, quality health care."

The survey found that health coverage has been mostly good for the finances of patients who did enroll.

Patients who signed up for insurance were less likely to say that they have difficulty affording care or problems paying their medical bills, or that their bills have a major financial impact than when they were uninsured in 2013. More than 50% of the previously uninsured say that having health insurance makes them feel more financially secure. 

However, a quarter of the recently insured report forgoing medical care because of costs. And 16% said they had been told by a doctor's office in the past year that they would not accept them as a patient, and 23% said they had to wait longer than they thought was reasonable for an appointment. 

Staff writer Chad Terhune contributed to this report. 

Follow @skarlamangla on Twitter for more California health news.


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