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'Disaster' looms as California plans to enroll uninsured

Becky Yeh - California correspondent   ( Friday, July 12, 2013

A California healthcare expert says the state's ambitious health insurance marketplace will be a disaster - despite the state's efforts to gain enrollees. 

"Covered California is going to be a disaster in terms of costs,” predicts Sally Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute. “We've already seen it with the price of the premiums.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced it will award $150 million in grants to qualified community health clinics around the country.


California's 125 community clinics will obtain $22 million to sign uninsured individuals onto Covered California, the state's health insurance marketplace. Part of the funds will be used to hire more than 400 people to help with enrollment in the state.

“A lot of young people, they're not going to buy the insurance,” says Pipes. “They're going to pay the fine, and then for the older and sicker people who are in the exchange – it’s going to be very expensive."

The grant will also help the state enroll individuals through Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid.

Pipes explains that costs under the exchange will be very high, and some large insurers have already opted out of the exchange.

"What it means is this could end up crowding out private insurers in California, and it will happen in other states, and that puts us on the path to what I believe will be Medicare for all,” says Pipes. “And I think that's what the president ultimately wants, is a single-payer Medicare for all system and no private coverage."

Community clinics in the state reach over three million Californians. HHS notes that most of these individuals are uninsured. 

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