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California's Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) Open for Enrollment

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Achieving a major milestone in health care reform, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today announced California's Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) has opened for enrollment with coverage beginning today, Monday, October 25, 2010. The PCIP is one of the first major provisions of national health care reform to take effect and is designed to bridge the gap between now and 2014, when insurers will no longer be allowed to decline health coverage or charge higher premiums to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

"Today's action is a major achievement in implementing health care reform in California," said Governor Schwarzenegger. "Operating the high-risk insurance plan is a win-win for our state because we can maximize federal funds while providing more affordable coverage to individuals who desperately need health insurance."

Earlier this year, the Governor announced the state would contract with the federal government to operate a temporary health insurance program for medically uninsured individuals with preexisting medical conditions and tasked the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board (MRMIB) with implementing the new program. The Administration submitted its proposal over the summer to establish and operate the PCIP through a public-private partnership with contracted vendors, which will be overseen by MRMIB.

In order to expand affordable health coverage to uninsured Californians with pre-existing medical conditions and implement the PCIP, the Governor also recently signed legislation creating the Federal Temporary High Risk Health Insurance Fund to receive $761 million in federal funding. The PCIP will be supported solely through this federal funding and subscriber premiums. It is expected to provide health care coverage to cover up to 23,000 hard-to-insure Californians at any given time.

"Now that PCIP has opened its doors, we will be working to make sure that all Californians are aware of this valuable new coverage option," said Kim Belshé, Chair of Governor Schwarzenegger's Health Care Reform Implementation Task Force and Secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency. "We are dedicated to providing this more affordable option for our hard-to-insure residents."

Coverage under the PCIP is available to Californians who have been without health coverage for at least six months and have been declined coverage from a carrier due to their pre-existing condition or have been offered coverage at a rate higher than the preferred provider premium rate of the state's high risk pool, the Major Risk Medical Insurance Program. Californians interested in coverage under the PCIP are encouraged to visit www.pcip.ca.gov or call 1-877-428-5060 for more information.

Governor Schwarzenegger announced earlier this year that he is taking aggressive action to implement federal health care reform in California, and his Administration has been working since federal health care reform passed to implement key elements before the 2014 start date. The Governor also formed a Health Care Reform Task Force to implement key reform provisions and programs under health care reform this year, including the PCIP.

Last month the Governor took action on another major component of federal health care reform and made California the first state in the nation to enact legislation creating a health benefit exchange. The California Health Benefit Exchange will make it easier for individuals and small businesses to compare plans and buy health insurance in the private market using federal tax subsidies to make health coverage more affordable.

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