Survey: Californians lack information about exchanges

Despite a consumer outreach campaign educating the public about the health insurance exchanges, uninsured Californians still don't know how the government can help them address healthcare costs, according to a new survey released only days before the exchanges launch.

The survey, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, found 74 percent of people eligible for federal subsidies don't know or don't think they will qualify for the benefits. And among the respondents eligible for California's Medicaid program, barely more than 50 percent know they can sign up for it.

Meanwhile, 70 percent of eligible uninsured Californians said they don't understand how the reform law will impact them due to a lack of adequate information. However, Kaiser pointed out the survey was conducted in late August, before California officials began the most intensive outreach plans.

"This has been, for so long, a political debate," Anthony Wright, executive director of consumer advocacy group Health Access, told Kaiser Health News. "We're just starting to move it into a practical reality. Now that the benefits are close at hand, there is a concerted effort to educate people about what their benefits are."

Among uninsured, undocumented immigrants, 49 percent said they are eligible to sign up for Medicaid while 43 percent say they can shop in the state's exchange. Both assumptions are incorrect because the reform law prohibits undocumented immigrants from obtaining health coverage through the online marketplaces.

Although California is one of the most pro-reform states in the country and has already launched education campaigns to reach out to state residents, California's diversity makes marketing the exchange particularly complicated, Elizabeth Abbott, the director of administrative advocacy for Health Access, told Time.

For example, the website for the exchange, called Covered California, includes information in 13 different languages. And the state has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country, with about 7 million uninsured residents.

To learn more:
- here's the Kaiser survey
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- see the Time article

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