On Tuesday, the Board of Covered California , a new marketplace working toward transformational improvements to the affordability of insurance in California, took action on fulfilling that promise for low income Californians.  Offering affordable health plans is a critical priority for Covered California.  The Board set in motion an approach to using “Bridge Plans”  to help low-income Californians keep their doctors and be better able to afford health insurance.

Starting in 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will begin helping people afford health insurance in a number of ways.  For example, California will expand Medi-Cal, to cover folks with an income of up to 133% of Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or $31,322 for a family of four.  Additionally, Covered California will provide help with premiums and out of pocket costs for those earning up to 400% of FPL, on a sliding scale.

By and large most people will be able to find quality, affordable care in the new marketplace.  However, there is concern that some may still have trouble finding affordable, quality coverage.  That is where the action approved by the Covered California Board comes in.  Covered California’s moved to cement affordability as a cornerstone of their effort with the approval of a Bridge Plan, which focuses on affordability and continuity of care for the low-income individuals.

The Bridge Plan, which could cover as many as 800,000 Californians, will minimize disruptions to low income Californians by ensuring these folks can stay insured and keep their doctors, even when their eligibility for coverage changes between Medi-Cal and Covered California.  What’s more, the Board voted to work with the Federal Government to explore developing low cost options for those who are extremely price sensitive, Californians earning between 133% and 200% FPL.

According to Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee, the federal government is very interested in exploring the idea of ensuring health insurance is affordable to low-income Californians and this idea may help other states.  We at Consumers Union are very excited to help California solidify our role as the “Pace Car” on health care reform at home and across the country!