"We want to make sure all Californians know that now is the time to get coverage that begins Jan. 1," he said, noting the deadline has been pushed from an original date of Dec. 15.
About 385,000 people have completed insurance applications through Covered California since Oct. 1, Lee said. And about 140,000 of those people will receive government coverage on Jan. 1 through an expanded Medi-Cal program.
Several people who have completed applications have not yet fully enrolled but about 85,000 people have completed the process by picking a plan, Lee said in a courtyard in front of the Magnolia Family Medical Clinic in Oxnard. Open enrollment continues until the end of March.
Initially Spanish-speaking people were slow to enroll as were those in the low- and middle-income groups who qualify for subsidies. Most people who completed the enrollment process in October were ages 55 to 64, according to Covered California data.
Now the numbers are shifting in a fashion that will bring better balance to the new marketplace, said Lee. He said people who were waiting for enrollment when it began on Oct. 1 were largely people with health conditions that meant they couldn't get insurance previously.
Enrollment is rising among people who are eligible for subsidies, and personally reaching out to Spanish speakers is showing a good success rate.
The news that the Federal government is delaying the portal for small businesses who want to cover their workers through the health care reform - has no effect on California because the state has its own exchange.
Covered California went live on Monday with its online portal for small businesses at coveredca.com.
The constant problems that have inundated enrollment for individuals and families on the federal website have caused some effect in California, pushing leaders to change their marketing campaign to show that the state site was not affected.
He said the exchange hadn't become the political football in California that it had become in other regions. But he also said he was not surprised that every decision and enrollment update was up for scrutiny, saying that the attention would last for another year.
"Covered California is the California voice for the biggest change in health care since Medicare," he said.
Last week, Covered California leaders rejected Obama's plan to extend policies for people who have received cancellation notices. The notices are aimed at policies that don't meet the new standards of federal reform.
Exchange members and observers said the decision was based on concern that the renewals would cause confusion, create logistical barriers, push more healthy people out of the exchange and bring large premium hikes in 2015.
"There are no good options," Lee said. "People are going to be losing policies that for some of them, a minimum, are pretty good policies and their rates are going up."
Lee's presentation was hosted by the Ventura County Public Health Department. One of several groups funded to reach people locally, public health received a $700,000 grant to provide education and outreach for Covered California.
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)
Tom Kisken, November 2013