Regional health plan seeks to top SF enrollments again for Covered California 

click to enlarge Hue Ly signs up for the Chinese Community Health Plan on Thursday. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Hue Ly signs up for the Chinese Community Health Plan on Thursday.

Among the five health care coverage plans that San Francisco residents can sign up for under Covered California by the midnight deadline Sunday is a regional health plan that last year saw higher enrollment than its four competitors, all major carriers.

The Chinese Community Health Plan in 2014, Covered California's inaugural coverage year, received approximately 28 percent of San Francisco enrollees, topping Kaiser Permanente at 26 percent, Blue Shield at 22 percent, Blue Cross at 18 percent and Health Net at 6 percent.

"Really, we relied on Covered California's massive push and they did multi-language marketing so we knew we would have a fair chance among the larger carriers," CCHP spokesman YoungSoo Cho said. "We certainly didn't forecast that level of success."

The Chinatown-based plan submitted its competitive bid to be part of the exchange last year primarily to ensure it could continue to adequately serve the population it was founded to help — Chinese immigrants lacking access to employer or group health plans. It was accepted into the enrollment exchange because it offers "a competitive product that not only brought in its core audience but also expanded outside," Covered California spokesman Dana Howard said.

As the only regional health plan accepted into the Covered California San Francisco area, CCHP capitalized on the opportunity to serve other demographics, offering more one-on-one enrollment assistance in Spanish, along with Cantonese and Mandarin, Cho said. Language preference among enrollees last year was 48 percent English, 36 percent Cantonese, 4 percent Mandarin, 3 percent Spanish and 8 percent unspecified.

Many Latino applicants found CCHP's cultural sensitivity consistent with how they view health care, Cho said, while second-generation Chinese tended to associate the plan — long partnered with the Chinese Hospital — as a health care option for their parents.

"What's funny is a lot of non-Chinese regardless of their generation are giving us a chance more than the American-born Chinese are," he said. "We're aiming to change that."

Leading enrollment in the San Francisco region again is more challenging, Cho said, because CCHP last year had the lowest premiums across the board and the large carriers have matched some prices this year.

Specific enrollment numbers for Sunday's deadline for coverage starting March 1 are not available yet, but Howard said CCHP "is on a really strong course again and holding strong with their renewal."

Since open enrollment for this period began Nov. 15, more than 354,000 Californians have selected health plans, still falling short of the 500,000 projected statewide. But that goal is still within reach, Covered California spokesman James Scullary said.

"What we've seen with every deadline that we've come across is that people are procrastinating and they wait until the end to get through the door," Scullary said.

CCHP's enrollment clinic in the Excelsior last week served about 10 people per day, but that number doubled this week.

"Twenty people is considered a lot," said CCHP plan-based enroller Hue Ly, "Because we have two people working here and it's 45 minutes to one hour per person."

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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