KCBS In Depth: California’s Health Benefit Exchange

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(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Get ready to do some health insurance shopping. California implements its health benefit exchange next year and it will be a game changer for both consumers and providers.

After the heated debates in Washington over the federal Affordable Care Act, otherwise kn0wn as Obamacare, a new plan for the Golden State is ready.

Peter Lee, executive director of the Covered California program, said the name is a reflection of what the program does: covers every citizen in the state with health insurance.

Most Californians that are insured have employer-based coverage, which they can keep. Under the new rules there will be penalties for large employers and and Californians who don’t buy in. For the five million or so Californians who say they can’t afford health insurance, “we’re going to give them help through a federal subsidy to buy a private health plan,” said Lee.

Consumers would have to take advantage of the coverage or be penalized in the form of a tax. In addition, no one will be paying more than eight percent of their income for insurance, which health providers are right now bidding on to supply. Lee acknowledges it’s going to be a big learning curve helped with a website to do the math for you if you need more help.

According to Lee the program will have over 20,000 trained people across the state and the staff will speak a dozen languages.

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