In September 2021, Yue Zhang was at a family birthday celebration when his vision became so blurred that he couldn’t drive himself home. He thought he just needed new glasses. After two weeks with a new pair, things hadn’t gotten better.
Using Blue Shield of California’s telehealth benefit, Zhang quickly connected with an Emergency Room (ER) doctor, who suggested he go to the ER immediately. He did and was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a bone marrow cancer that could have claimed his life if it had gone undetected.
Zhang, a first-generation immigrant from China, is just one of the five million Californians who have gotten their health coverage through Covered California since it was created under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2013. Because of the high-quality and affordable coverage available through the state’s health plan exchange, California has experienced the nation’s greatest reduction in the ranks of the uninsured, down to a historic low of seven percent.
Covered California held a special event in Los Angeles earlier this month to kick off this year’s Open Enrollment period and highlight its 10th anniversary. The event featured Covered California Executive Director Jessica Altman, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, elected officials including Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services, Rep. Karen Bass, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and Blue Shield of California member Yue Zhang.
Open Enrollment Period – Time to Sign Up for Health Care Coverage
As the tenth anniversary of the program approaches, the annual Open Enrollment Period is in progress. This is the time of the year when Californians can enroll in a health plan for the upcoming year and, if already covered, can choose a different plan.
Blue Shield of California has offered plans through Covered California since its inception and continues to offer coverage in all of the state’s 58 counties. Most individuals who enroll in a plan through Covered California receive financial help to lower the monthly premium for health coverage.
At a panel discussion last month, Patrice Bergman, Blue Shield’s vice president of Individual and Family Plans (IFP), discussed the importance of virtual care, home health care for Covered California beneficiaries during the pandemic years, and the investment Blue Shield of California is making in data sharing to improve outcomes and reduce healthcare costs in the state.
“There is a unique opportunity to educate and help consumers navigate the healthcare system,” Bergman said. For underserved populations, Bergman believes that Covered California can provide members with access to care and remove their financial barriers to staying healthy.
Telehealth Making a Difference
Zhang credits his first telehealth session with saving his life – and his Blue Shield health plan with enabling him to finish his therapy successfully at home instead of during a prolonged hospital stay. After being diagnosed at Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, Calif., Zhang was sent to City of Hope, a National Cancer Institute (NCI) comprehensive cancer center in Duarte, Calif., where he received chemotherapy and was treated for another potentially life-threatening infection.
When he went home, Zhang was assigned a Blue Shield of California nurse to check on him and make sure he was keeping up with his treatment plan.
“Blue Shield of California treated me with respect, and they didn’t want me to stress about things that will delay my recovery,” he said at the Covered California Open Enrollment kickoff event. “They quickly approved a nurse to come to my home for multiple visits to instruct me on the proper method of medication intake.”
Zhang concluded his remarks with a powerful reminder to his audience, “I wouldn’t be talking to you today if it weren’t for Covered California, which provided me with such good insurance so I could get the best treatment. Please, get insurance if you haven’t already. Don’t wait because your life is so important.”