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Covered California adopts new budget, elects chair

File photo: A representative of Health Care for All, a group that supports a single-payer coverage system, talks to people attending a recent California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento. Photo by Laurel Rosenhall for CALmatters.

The Board of Directors for state health insurance marketplace Covered California adopted a $350 million budget for its next fiscal year Monday. The budget will emphasize in investing in marketing and outreach that promotes enrollment and keeps premiums low, according to a news release.

The budget relies solely on the funds collected from qualified health plans, and doesn’t include any state or federal funding. Of the total budget, $10 million will go to reserve funds for savings.

The organization plans to allocate $107 million for marketing and outreach and sales to retain consumers.

Another $105 million will be allocated for the service center and the new Consumer Experience Division.

Premium costs are going down, according to the release. The cost for assessing health plans went down 0.25 percent, now at 3.75 percent from the assessment rate of 4 percent levied in 2017 and 2018. Trends show this would lead to a 2.3 percent assessment on individual market premiums in 2019, the release stated.

“This budget keeps Covered California on the path of building on a competitive marketplace that puts consumers first,” said executive director Peter Lee. “Covered California is on strong financial footing and well positioned to be nimble and responsive to the ongoing uncertainty that continues at the federal level.”

Last Thursday, Covered California’s board also elected a new chair to help oversee the agency. The chair-elect was Mike Wilkening, the new secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency.

Wilkening was appointed to HHS secretary in May to lead 12 state departments.  He replaces Diana Dooley, the outgoing HHS secretary, who was recently appointed to be Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive secretary.

Eligible consumers who are interested in signing up should go to where they can get help to enroll and peruse 800 storefronts statewide, or more than 17,000 certified enrollers who can assist consumers in understanding their choices and enrolling, including individuals who can assist in other languages. In addition, consumers can reach the Covered California service center by calling (800) 300-1506.

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