At a time when the Affordable Care Act has emerged as a key difference between candidates vying to represent Santa Barbara in Congress — Republican Justin Fareed calls it a “legislative boondoggle” while Democrat Salud Carbajal insists it should be tweaked but retained — enrollments are gradually increasing while premiums are going up more sharply.
According to Covered Care spokesperson James Scullary, premiums are increasing on average by 15.8 percent in the tri-counties region, while enrollments in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties increased by 2,000, bringing the grand total to 29,400. “Shopping matters,” Scullary stated, noting that the lowest priced option — with the same benefit level — saw a rate increase of only 7.6 percent. That’s still higher than the increases of the previous two years, 5.1 and 4.4 percent respectively.
A major impact of the Affordable Care Act in California has been a sharp increase in the number of individuals enrolled in Medi-Cal. Before the Affordable Care Act, Medi-Cal was restricted to people making 100 percent the federal poverty level; under the new provisions, it’s now 138 percent the federal poverty level. As a result, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties combined went from Medi-Cal enrollments of 108,000 three years ago to 178,000 as of September 30.