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CPEHN began its Equity and the ACA webinar series earlier today. We were very fortunate to have Peter Lee, Executive Director of the California Health Benefit Exchange, as our first presenter. The event, Equity and the ACA: Establishing the California Health Benefit Exchange, featured an informative presentation and a question and answer session with participants from across the state.

Lee began by discussing different components of the Affordable Care Act and its potential to improve the lives of millions of uninsured Californians.

Of California’s approximately 5 million uninsured, 76 percent are people of color and 85 percent make less than 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) . To picture the scale of California’s uninsured population, Lee broke it down even further.

“For example, Asians represent about 9 percent of California’s uninsured,” he said. “That comes out to about 500,000 individuals, which is more than the entire uninsured population of about 35 states.”

There is the potential for the Exchange to help over 2 million Californians receive tax credits to purchase affordable insurance coverage. Of those eligible for these subsidies, 65 percent will be people of color and 32 percent will speak English less than very well.

With the diversity of California’s uninsured population in mind, Lee directed his attention to the goals of the Exchange and their progress toward establishing information technology for enrollment systems and outreach and education for cultivating awareness of the new programs. He stressed that the demographics of the state play a key role in strategies to increase enrollment in the Exchange and other public programs.

“We want to make it as seamless as possible for people to find out what they are eligible for and then make the choices that are right for them,” he said. “Having underlying (demographic) data for who we have the potential to enroll will be a key driver for how we do outreach.”

Lee was also confident that reform would continue to progress in California regardless of the results of the presidential election this November.

“The one thing we do know is that California is committed to changing how we deliver care and expanding coverage,” he said. “The Exchange will be a big part of that under any circumstance.”

You can access the audio and presentation slides from this event at CPEHN’s website.

Ellen Wu is the Executive Director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. In 2012, CPEHN is celebrating 20 years as a champion for health equity.

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