California health insurance exchange announces grants

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Covered California, the state’s health insurance exchange, announced $37 million in grants Tuesday to begin the massive task of educating millions of Californians about the new healthcare law.

The grants will go to 48 organizations, including universities, nonprofit groups, health foundations and unions. They will help state officials explain the new benefits, show people how to access insurance, and encourage small businesses to enroll.

Covered California’s executive director, Peter Lee, said Tuesday that getting the word out will require collaboration and partnership across the state.


“There is a lot to learn, there is a lot to explain and not a lot of time to do it,” he said at a news conference at First 5 LA in downtown Los Angeles. “Covered California can’t deliver this message from behind the desks in Sacramento.”

In October, enrollment will begin in the state’s exchange, through which people will be able to purchase insurance with federal subsidies. Consumers will be able to enroll by phone, online, in person and by mail. The benefits will take effect in January.

Covered California board member Robert Ross said the law is now in the hands of Californians and the clock has begun to tick toward implementation. “We are the ones who have to make it work,” he said. “It is not going to be perfect on Jan. 1. We will have bumps. We will have bruises. But we will continue to move forward.”

Of the grant funds, $34 million will target consumers and $3 million will reach out to small businesses, Lee said.

The organizations cover all 58 counties and have employees who speak dozens of languages. They include the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, Planned Parenthood, California Rural Indian Health Board and the UC Regents.