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As goes California, so goes Obamacare?

A health care reform specialist helps people select insurance plans at the free Affordable Care Act (ACA) Enrollment Fair at Pasadena City College on November 19, 2013 in Pasadena, California. The event, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the Los Angeles Association of Health Underwriters, offers one-on-one sessions with insurance experts certified by Covered California to help people enroll for healthcare coverage under the ACA.

It’s been a week since President Obama announced that people with canceled health insurance policies should be able to keep them for another year. That’s if states and insurance companies agreed. Well, so far 13 states have agreed, eight have said no, and a very big one could decide today.

California is big in a couple ways. Last month, more people enrolled in its exchange than enrolled in all of healthcare.gov. At the same time, close to a million Californians have seen their policies canceled. In Los Angeles, graphic designer Colleen Corcoran is one of them.

“I mean I do have mixed feelings about the fact that this inexpensive plan that I’ve had is being canceled,” she says. “And it’s not easy for me to have to pay more.”

But she also had zero preventative care. Her deductible was so high, if she got sick, she just toughed it out. Corcoran says it’s probably time to pay more and get more.

Meanwhile California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones wants people to be able to renew their policies. He says the move would not undermine the exchange. He says as insurers have canceled policies, they’ve been suggesting people sign up for non-exchange plans.

“It’s completely disingenuous then for those same health insurers to say ‘We’re worried about the exchange’ when in fact they’re steering people to non-exchange products,” he says.

The board of Covered California, which put the state marketplace together, will meet today to discuss whether allowing renewals would indeed undermine the new marketplace’s risk pool.

About the author

Kate Davidson is a regular contributor to Marketplace.

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