Covered California kicked off its third year with a recommitment to insuring 2 million people and a pledge to overcome the gross ignorance of the public, 36% of whom don’t know that there is a federal subsidy for signing up.
“This lack of understanding of the subsidy is a striking finding,” Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee said. He contrasted it to the fact that 16% of a random sample―in a survey (pdf) of 2,200 California legal residents between 18 and 64―didn’t realize they will be penalized if they don’t sign up.
Around 90% of the 1.3 million Covered California customers get subsidies. Some 200,000 people have their monthly bill lowered to less than $50. Subsidies are awarded in a sliding scale to people with adjusted net incomes less than four times the federal poverty level. That’s around $47,000 for an individual and $97,000 for a family of four.
Lee’s “striking” finding is perhaps less striking when one considers what else 36% of people know and don’t know. Only 36% of Americans could name the three branches of government in an Annenberg Public Policy Center survey last year. And only 36% correctly know that blasphemy is not illegal. A survey of people worldwide by Avast, the Internet security company, found that 36% of people don't think it's necessary to back up computer data.
In a head-to-head battle with Donald Trump, 36% of voters surveyed by Rasmussen Reports think Hillary Clinton would be the better president. Trump got 38%. The correctness of that assessment could be made next year.
Covered California is rolling out a campaign to inform uninsured residents about what they’re missing. There will be grants to community groups, a swarm of 18,000 certified insurance agents, 500 staffed storefronts and a stream of promotional activities.
Kevin Drum at Mother Jones suggested it would be much more effective, and a lot cheaper, to simply put up billboard advertisements with a picture of President Obama in medical attire next to a message written large: “Free Obama Money! Get Yours NOW at www.coveredca.com.”
Although Covered California and Obamacare, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that spawned them, have been self-publicized and in the news for three years—sometimes the subject of hotly contentious debate—10% of state residents surveyed were unfamiliar with them. That’s an improvement from 21% in 2013.
The enrollment period began November 1 and runs through January 31.