There are the politics and the spinning. There’s the talk of improved health outcomes … and then there is the bottom line. What does this mean for the state’s consumers?

The California Health Benefit Exchangeis the most tangible institution that Californians will interact with as a result of the law. Those newly in the market to buy insurance because of ACA, this is your go to shop.  Officials estimate that’s around 3 million Californians.

“We look forward to making the purchase of insurance through California’s exchange as easy as buying a book on Amazon or shoes on Zappos,” says Peter Lee, who has been working to set up this online marketplace.

Lee spoke right after the decision and one of the first questions he fielded was what income levels will qualify for insurance subsidies and how big the credits will be.

I’ve pasted in a chart his office released below to give an overview of the amounts. The credits go to those earning up to 400% of the federal povery level (FPL). So if you’re, say, a family of four earning up to $93,000 you qualify for help buying insurance.

Health Benefit Exchange income levels and credits (source:

Lee also outlined the next steps for the Exchange. It’s been in the works for two years now, which puts California ahead of other states on this issue. But there are three areas they’ll focus on now:

1. Working with health plans to hammer out details of the insurance they’ll offer.

2. Launching a big education campaign in 2013. Lee says there’s been a lot of “misinformation” out there and the right info needs to get into the hands of the uninsured.

3. Setting up the IT system needed to power the system.

Where is the money coming from to fund all these efforts? Lee says right now the Exchange is backed by money from the federal government (they just applied last night for another $196 million grant), but after the first full year of the Health Exchange it will be funding itself from the health care plans it works with.

OK California, What The Health Exchange Means for YOU 21 August,2012Rachel Dornhelm


Rachel Dornhelm

Rachel Dornhelm has worked as a reporter, editor and producer in public radio for the last twelve years. She got her start in New York City at WNYC and went on to work with the national business program Marketplace, WBUR’s “On Point” and KQED News in San Francisco. Her work has been honored by the LA Press Club and the SF-Peninsula Press Club.

Rachel has a BA with honors in anthropology from Rice University and did graduate work at NYU.

State of Health Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor