dancers performing on stage

When it comes to helping people gain health insurance coverage, California is a success story. The state, which expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2014, had a 7.2 percent uninsurance rate in 2017, lower than the national rate of 8.8 percent. Since Medicaid expanded in California, uninsurance has dropped farther there than any other state.

But despite that success, about 3 million Californians are uninsured, 1.1 million of which are eligible for insurance through the state’s health insurance program, Covered California. And 100,000 of those people are in San Diego.

To raise awareness about health insurance enrollment in the city, the Covered California bus tour rolled into town on Tuesday, holding a news conference on the steps of the San Diego Convention Center, home to APHA’s 2018 Annual Meeting and Expo.

“We in California have made a world of difference…but we’re not done,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee during the news conference. “In the end, health care is local.”

Some people who lack health insurance in the state think they can’t afford it, but under Covered California, participants can pay as little as $50 a month, Lee said.

“California is leading the way,” said APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin at the news event. “You have shown all of us around the nation what you can do when you roll your sleeves up.”

The 10-day, 23-stop bus tour, which has a theme of “Life Can Change in an Instant,” features dance performances showing that illnesses and injuries can’t always be anticipated. In San Diego, the dance was performed by the Gigi Torres Dancers, and was inspired by a story of an uninsured man who hurt his foot and then had to give up playing basketball.

“Health insurance is planning for those things you can’t plan for,” Lee said.

To sign up for health insurance under Covered California, visit If you live in another state, sign up for coverage at

At top, the Gigi Torres Dancers perform at a Covered California enrollment event during the APHA Annual Meeting in San Diego. Photo by Michele Late, courtesy The Nation’s Health