Californians are ready for getting health insurance– in a big way –once they know the facts about Covered California!  However, there is still a massive public education effort that needs to happen between now and October 2013 when open enrollment begins.  That news came out of a market research study “Getting California Covered” commissioned by Covered California, the name of California’s Health Insurance Exchange.

Covered California aims to improve the affordability and consumer experience of shopping for health insurance as a result of  the Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare.  With potentially millions of Californians as enrollees and qualifying for premium assistance and other out of pocket costs, Covered California will be one of the largest purchasers of health care in the United States. That gives it a lot of power to negotiate reasonable premiums and quality improvements.

The study findings, released at Tuesday’s Covered California Board meeting sought to determine levels of awareness about health insurance reform and to explore general attitudes toward reform.  Most of the 412 diverse people surveyed did not know much about reform and was confused about what Covered California will provide. In fact, less than half could name anything specific about the impending changes; Nonetheless, the majority still held a favorable view of reform.

After a thirty minute conversation about Covered California, participants were asked to sum up their feelings in one word. The most frequent word used was “Good” followed by “Happy,” “Positive,” “Excellent, and “Hopeful.”  Not surprising, but participants were interested in learning more about how Covered California will help them find affordable coverage that is high quality and secure,  with 97% of those surveyed interested in shopping in Covered California.

While this is cause for optimism, the fact that too few people know far too little about reform speaks volumes about the work needed to inform them about Covered California.  2013 must be the year of public education and outreach to spread the news about the promise of expanded access to health insurance that Covered California will bring.

Advocates will be doing their part with media efforts and organizing, but what’s really exciting is the upcoming efforts announced by Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee.  Covered California will begin the New Year with a launch a “mini-site” for the public to learn more about Covered California.  What’s more, he announced Covered California will launch an extensive paid media campaign as early as March of 2013!

Until now, most of the action around the creation of Covered California has been behind the scenes. While that work is critically important, it is also highly technical and not of much interest to the general public. But now we are reaching the part of implementation that will lead to countless kitchen table conversations across California—actually getting the promised coverage without regard to health status.

If these findings are any indication, health care reform is something the public cares deeply about, and they are hungry to learn more.  2013 is the time all stakeholders will come together and begin the big push to educate the public.