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California Finds Solution for Healthcare Consumers Without Bank Accounts

Mary K. Caffrey
The system lets consumers pay cash at store register, while clerks scan bar codes sent to their cell phones. The system replaces these consumers sending in money orders each month.
The whole point of the Affordable Care Act is getting those who couldnít afford health coverage into the ranks of the insured. So, itís a safe bet that will mean working around the realities of being poor.

Among them: many living paycheck to paycheck donít bother with bank accounts. They canít risk the fees that come with an overdraft, so they pay their bills in cash.

However, a 2013 Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. survey found that 68% of these households rely on cellphones. That has created a way for Californiaís largest publicly run health plan to let consumers without bank accounts pay for healthcare in cash.

L.A. Care Covered, one of the plans available on Covered California, this week began offering consumers the option of paying their premiums in cash at 1 of 680 locations that include convenience stores or the Family Dollar. Customers bring cash to the register, where a clerk scans a bar code that has been sent to their smart phone. The electronic payment posts within 24 hours. The service is free to the customers, according to Kaiser Health News.

PayNearMe created the cash transaction network and charges fees to L.A. Care Covered for the transactions. This system will allow customers to avoid sending in the money orders they were mailing to L.A. Care each month.

The method helps address a pair of concerns: how low-income consumers without bank accounts will remember to make payments, and concerns by providers that those unaccustomed to making premium payments will miss them, causing policies to lapse even if the members of the household continue to seek care.

According to the Kaiser Health News report, while L.A. Care is the first health plan to use the network, it is in use by other states for child support payments, water bills, and bike share rides.


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