Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 7:56 pm | Fair 52º


Insurance Enrollments ‘Skyrocket’ in Santa Barbara County After Affordable Care Act Rollout

The number of people signing up for health insurance in Santa Barbara County has "skyrocketed" since Affordable Care Act enrollment went into effect in 2013, according to one county official who spoke Tuesday to the Board of Supervisors.

County supervisors got an update on the massive effort county departments have put in preparing for an influx of patients, and the department heads of Public Health, Social Services and Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Departments all gave an update at Tuesday's meeting.

The supervisors voted unanimously to receive and file the report.

The law was signed into effect in March 2010 and requires U.S. citizens and legal residents to have health insurance coverage, either through a state-run exchange, like Covered California, or a private exchange, or pay a penalty.

Since the rollout of the ACA, about 8,000 people have chosen the county as their medical home for care, according to Public Health Director Dr. Takashi Wada.

Open enrollment for 2015 is now open and lasts until February.

Because of that, the county's caseload is still growing, and county staff are expecting an additional 17,000 enrollments by July of this year.

Daniel Nielson, director of the Santa Barbara County Department of Social Services, said 114,000 people in the county are served by Medi-Cal, which serves low-income families, seniors, people with disabilities and others. More than 34,000 of those people were enrolled since October 2013, he said.

The Department of Social Services has been the primary engine of enrollment in the county, and Nielson said the county is exceeding the state's projections of enrollment.

Due to tech glitches from the state's Covered California exchange, the county was facing a backlog of 10,000 applications of people trying to sign up, but those have since been worked out and the county is now down to 400 applications waiting verification, Nielson said.

Wada said the department has also seen a decrease in patients who self-pay for services, which is important to the mix of patients that the county sees. That number of patients has reduced from 28 percent to less than 13 percent, he said.

Alice Gleghorn, the newly hired director of ADMHS, was also on hand Tuesday to talk about how the enrollments have affected her department.

In 2014, 1,500 people were enrolled in mental health programs, substance abuse programs or both, she said. The department has been working to get more people enrolled, including doing outreach to the homeless, Spanish-speaking populations as well as Oaxacan families.

The Department of Social Services also had a point person working in the jail during the last enrollment period and was able to sign up those in custody before they were released. 

"It was a successful effort," Nielson said. 

However, none of the medical costs for people in the jail are Medi-Cal reimbursable, and ACA doesn't change that.

Health-care renews annually, so the county needs to make sure it keeps those patients it has enrolled coming back year after year, Gleghorn said. Making sure there are enough staff and making sure they are getting the word out into marginalized populations will also be a challenge.

The supervisors, including Supervisor Salud Carbajal, praised staff for their work on the rollout.

"I'm really happy to see we've been able to enroll so many residents," he said. "To see that it's actually working is really refreshing. I never thought we would be at this point where we are enrolling thousands of people that didn't have insurance before.

"As somebody who had Medi-Cal when I was a kid, I just think it's really cool."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.