Monday, December 16, 2019

UPDATE: Covered California Has Extended Deadline to Friday, Officials Say New Subsidies and Eligibility Requirements Are Available

Posted By on Mon, Dec 16, 2019 at 12:56 PM

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UPDATE:

The state has extended the deadline to sign up and receive Covered California coverage beginning Jan. 1 until Friday due to a surge in enrollment.

According to a press release, “Covered California saw tens of thousands of people sign up for coverage” beginning late last week.

“Open enrollment is full-steam ahead, and this year’s enrollment period is more important than before,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said. “Sign up now and you may be eligible for new financial help that is available for the first time, and you can avoid the possibility of paying a significant penalty for not being covered.”

The full Covered California release on the extension can be found at the bottom of the story.

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If you want to sign up for health insurance through Covered California and enter 2020 insured, you’re running out of time.

The Dec. 15 deadline (extended to Dec. 20)  to sign up in time to start the New Year with coverage is approaching and state officials are reminding California residents without health insurance that they will face a penalty next year. While Congress reduced the penalty for failing to get insured under the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, the California Legislature enacted its own version this year, meaning residents who don’t have health insurance next year could face penalties of up to $695 per person.

But the looming penalties promise to bring more people into the insurance pool, which will reduce costs, said Covered California spokesperson James Scullary. Rates for next year are only going up 0.8 percent statewide, Scullary said, the lowest rate change in the program’s history. And in Humboldt County, he said, the average rate change is a 1.7-percent reduction.

There are also more subsidies available than in previous years, Scullary said, and they are available to a wider swath of customers.

Customers who make less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level — which equates to about $49,960 for an individual or $103,000 for a family of four — on average receive subsidies that cover 80 percent of their insurance costs, Scullary said. Further, he said individuals making up to $75,000 and families of four with incomes up to $154,000 are now eligible.

Scullary said he’s heard from lots of people in Humboldt County who assumed they were ineligible for Covered California and/or subsidies because that was the case a couple of years ago.

“We’re really encouraging them to check again because things have changed substantially,” he said. “That could make a big difference in people’s lives.”

To find out if you’re eligible, visit www.coveredcalifornia.com or call (800) 300-1506. Scullary said the website also has a tool that allows people to anonymously enter their zip code, household income and ages of household residents in order to see the assortment of plans available and what federal and state subsidies may be available.

Open enrollment for Covered California extends through Jan. 31, though, again, customers must sign up by Dec. 15 to be insured by Jan. 1. As of March, Scullary said about 5,900 Humboldt County residents were enrolled in the program.

Read the Covered California release below:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In response to a strong surge in enrollment, Covered California extended the deadline for consumers to sign up for health insurance that would start on Jan. 1. They will now have through Friday, Dec. 20, to sign up and have their coverage go into effect on New Year’s Day.

“Covered California is still open for business and making sure consumers can have a health plan in place on Jan. 1,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “Covered California is putting consumers first, making sure they have time to find the plan that best fits their needs.”

Beginning late last week, Covered California saw tens of thousands of people sign up for coverage on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“Open enrollment is full-steam ahead, and this year’s enrollment period is more important than before,” Lee said. “Sign up now and you may be eligible for new financial help that is available for the first time, and you can avoid the possibility of paying a significant penalty for not being covered.”

Governor Gavin Newsom Amplifies Message

Governor Newsom took to social media this weekend to help remind all Californians they can get help paying for their health insurance. In this Twitter video, the governor used the holiday season as a way to spread the news about the first in the nation state subsidies that are available and that Californians have until the end of Friday to sign up for coverage that begins Jan. 1.

Restoring the Individual Mandate

California lawmakers put two new policies in place for 2020 that were designed to encourage enrollment and lower costs.

First, they restored the individual mandate penalty that was part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from 2014 to 2018, meaning consumers who do not get covered could face a penalty when they file their 2020 taxes in the spring of 2021.

For those facing a penalty, a family of four would pay at least $2,000, and potentially more, for not having health insurance throughout 2020.

Covered California is working with the Franchise Tax Board, which will administer the penalty, to alert Californians about the new law and reduce the number of uninsured people in our state.

New State Subsidies

The second new policy for 2020 is new financial help for eligible Californians that will lower the cost of their coverage. Last week, Covered California announced that nearly 500,000 people who had already signed up for coverage in 2020 will be receiving the new subsidies.

On average, consumers between 200 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level will receive $21 per household, per month on top of their federal tax credits. Meanwhile, for the first time in the nation, people who earn between 400 and 600 percent of the federal poverty level will be receiving an average of $460 per month, per household.

“California will be making history this year, becoming the first state in the nation to make coverage more affordable for middle-income people like small-businesses owners and entrepreneurs,” Lee said. “If you have checked Covered California out before, check again, because you could be eligible for new financial help that will lower the cost of your coverage by hundreds of dollars a month.”

Getting Help Enrolling


Consumers can easily find out if they are eligible for financial help and see which plans are available in their area by entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage into Covered California’s Shop and Compare Tool.

Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can:

Visit www.CoveredCA.com.
Get free and confidential in-person assistance, in a variety of languages, from a certified enroller.
Have a certified enroller call them and help them for free.
Call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.


California’s open-enrollment period continues through Jan. 31, 2020, but people who enroll after Dec. 20 will have their coverage start Feb. 1.

Residents of Minnesota, Rhode Island, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and the District of Columbia should visit www.HealthCare.gov to be directed to their state exchange to enroll. Enrollment in Idaho’s health exchange ends today.

About Covered California

Covered California is the state’s health insurance marketplace, where Californians can find affordable, high-quality insurance from top insurance companies. Covered California is the only place where individuals who qualify can get financial assistance on a sliding scale to reduce premium costs. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Depending on their income, some consumers may qualify for the low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal program.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the health insurance marketplace work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.
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Thadeus Greenson

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Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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