KHN: California Faces Steep Challenges As Obamacare Launches, Report Finds

By Daniela Hernandez

As it prepares to offer coverage to its millions of uninsured residents through the Affordable Care Act, California faces daunting challenges and provides useful lessons for the rest of the nation, according to a survey and analysis released Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s report, based on a survey of 2,500 adult Californians before enrollment began in October,  provides a preliminary look at the roadblocks that could hinder the implementation of the law. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Among the challenges to uninsured and low-income residents are their poor connection to regular providers in the health care system, high costs, a limited understanding of the benefits the law provides, and technological problems going beyond initial computer glitches.

“The [federal] startup problems I think gave everyone a sense that this was all just about making websites work and finding healthy people to balance the risk pool,” said Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman.“This really is not just Travelocity or Kayak or, it’s a vastly more complicated, hands-on, community-based outreach challenge.”

Among the report’s key findings:

  • Many uninsured people are largely disconnected from the health care system. Half of uninsured California adults have been uninsured for five or more years, and roughly 1 in 5 (22 percent) have never had insurance in their lives.

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