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New Obamacare numbers give incomplete picture, advocates say

Some figures released Wednesday on the enrollment of Californians in insurance programs under President Obama's healthcare overhaul exclude many low-income applicants and fail to present a complete picture of those receiving coverage, experts said.

Many Californians who qualify for newly expanded government insurance for the poor have been enrolling directly with county health systems. Those enrollees are not included in the preliminary Obamacare participation numbers released Wednesday, officials said.

Among this group are those enrolled in so-called Low Income Health Programs, which offer free healthcare to patients who will roll over into Medi-Cal beginning Jan. 1.

California counties had enrolled more than 600,000 people in such programs as of August, said Lucien Wulsin, executive director of the Insure the Uninsured Project, which promotes universal health coverage in the state.

"We're about two-thirds of the way there," Wulsin said, noting that the state has indicated it hopes to enroll a total of 1 million uninsured people in the expanded Medi-Cal program.

Los Angeles County's low-income health insurance program, dubbed Healthy Way L.A., had enrolled 275,338 people as of Sept. 30. According to the Department of Health Services, 14,533 additional patients were enrolled as of Oct. 30.

Some enrollees may have been passed along by the state's online health insurance exchange, officials said. But many were recruited directly into Healthy Way L.A. at community events, through door-knocking campaigns, and at community clinics and hospitals.

In all, according to the new figures from the Department of Health and Human Services, 396,261 Americans have been determined or assessed eligible for Medicaid or CHIP through the new state exchanges — which means that California represents about 20% of the nation's share of Medicaid-eligible Obamacare shoppers.


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