Now that the 2012 election’s long lingering cloud of uncertainty surrounding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has lifted.  California can confidently sprint to the finish line of January 1 2014, the day  the Affordable Care Act is set to be fully operational, with expanded coverage for Californians.  California is running at full steam  to remake our healthcare system the envy of the nation.

One major task for California is spreading the word about Covered California, our new state-based insurance marketplace, which will transform health insurance for millions of Californians.

Right now, too many California families have nowhere to turn if they lose employer sponsored coverage.  Starting this October, Californians can enroll in coverage that guarantees individuals a secure place to  get high quality, competitively priced health plans if they lose their job or want to start their own business.  That means more piece of mind for millions of hard working Californians.

On January 1, 2014, insurance plans won’t be able to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions such as cancer or diabetes. Nor will they be able to discriminate against women by charging them higher rates than men. Covered California will also quickly tell consumers if they qualify for financial help with their private coverage, or qualify to participate in state programs such as Medi-Cal, based on their income.

If you need health insurance, starting in Fall 2013 you can contact Covered California via their website, over the phone, or in person and make your own decision about the kind of plan that is best for you. Knowledgeable staff, including community-based assistors, will be on hand to help address your questions and concerns about health plans.  Covered California aims to make insurance more affordable and will strive to give Californians more control over their health care.

Acting like a large employer for California individuals, families and small businesses that do not have health insurance through their work, Covered California will negotiate rates with insurers using the purchasing power of millions of Californians as leverage.  Additionally, it will increase competition among insurance companies by ensuring consumers and small businesses have access to clear, fair, apples-to-apples comparisons of costs, quality, and doctor networks for the health plans they are considering.

Remember: Congressional members also will be required to get their health insurance coverage from the same exchanges as everyone else. Their coverage will be the same as consumers and small businesses. That will help ensure that the exchange works as a good place to find comprehensive, fair benefits with adequate protections for everyone.

Covered California has been working overtime behind the scenes setting up the infrastructure to support the fundamental transformation needed to make our health insurance marketplace work for all Californians. Now that the election is settled and the finish line is in sight, you can expect to be hearing much, much more about how Covered California will strive to serve all California health insurance consumers.