By Penelope Chuah

Tremendous strides towards developing more affordable, accessible, and higher quality healthcare has taken place within the past three years; this year California is about to kick-off its new health market under Covered California.

These changes to the healthcare market all began with the momentous occasion in 2010 when “President Obama with the stroke of a pen, made health care for all Americans a right not a privilege” (Nancy Pelosi, Covered California Town Hall Forum). This monumental legislation called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was designed to restructure the fractured American healthcare system that has consequently ranked the nation 37th in worldwide health performance. Changes to individual premiums as well as other state insurance policies will vary from state to state. In California, Covered California will offer people an online platform to appropriately choose an affordable and high quality health plan.

So what else exactly does this legislation mean for Californians? It means ensuring that both the insured and uninsured find plans well suited to their needs; it means allowing people to choose from 13 health plans presented by the Health Benefit Exchange; it means providing premium assistance targeted by income; and it means decreasing health disparities. 5.3 million represents the number of currently uninsured Californians or those who purchase health insurance on his or her own; this number, however, will decrease tremendously this October 1, 2013 when the California health insurance marketplace opens for enrollment. In the Covered California forum hosted at UCSF, Peter Lee, Executive Director of the California Health Benefit Exchange and Berkley graduate, stated Covered California’s mission: 1. Increase the number of insured Californians and decrease health disparities, 2. Increase healthcare quality, 3. Decrease healthcare costs. The new system will provide standard benefits designed to ensure that money does not become a deterrent of access to care. Rates will be determined by age, zip code, income, and household size. How can you access this new exchange? Covered California has created an easily navigable website to facilitate new users to the options available. This online marketplace offers people a clear layout of the various health plans offered and to which ones they may qualify. For those who already have health insurance, they will be able to keep their insurance and receive the new benefits and security provided by the Affordable Care Act.

The remaining few months of 2013 and the forthcoming months of 2014 provide a bright future for the ongoing health reform process. For more information and details about Covered California and how to enroll, please follow this link: http://www.coveredca.com/