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California pitches Obamacare at CVS, Ralphs as deadline nears

Milk, bread and Obamacare.

Ahead of the March 31 enrollment deadline, the Covered California exchange said Friday that it reached a deal with pharmacy giant CVS Caremark Corp. and the Ralphs grocery chain to promote the healthcare law inside their stores.

The state said it will have health insurance information displays at the front of CVS stores. At Ralphs supermarkets, shoppers can get brochures and other information, hear in-store announcements and see messages on their receipts about health coverage.

Larry Hicks, an exchange spokesman, said the retailers are providing the display space at no cost to the state. He said the exposure is valuable even if it's coming so late in the six-month enrollment period.

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"It’s better late than never," Hicks said. "There will be thousands of people viewing these displays, and that may be the tipping point for inspiring them to enroll for health insurance in the closing days."

CVS has been promoting the Affordable Care Act at its stores nationwide since enrollment began in October. In California, the exchange said CVS will provide additional information in 120 stores in areas with the highest concentration of residents who are eligible for federal premium subsidies.

Covered California said all 88 Ralphs stores in the state are participating in the retail partnership. Ralphs is a unit of grocery chain Kroger Co.

Last year, the state exchange dropped plans to partner with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on promotion and enrollment after labor unions and consumer advocates protested the idea. Some critics fault Wal-Mart for its worker benefits, while the company says they exceed what the industry generally offers.

Overall, more than 1 million Californians have signed up for health insurance through the state exchange as of mid-March.

Through the end of February, more than 240,000 people in Los Angeles County had picked a health plan.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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