SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With only four days remaining until the end of open enrollment for affordable health insurance, Covered California officials on Thursday urged uninsured Californians to sign up and join millions of Californians who have gained coverage through Covered California and Medi-Cal.
“We’re nearing the finish line on the second year of this historic initiative, and we don’t want to leave anyone behind,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “Millions of people have gotten covered, which in turn has provided them with the medical care they deserve at the time they need it.”
Sunday, Feb. 15, is the last day of open enrollment, and hundreds of enrollment events are planned throughout California over the final days.
Lee said consumers who take action to start enrollment or make an appointment by Feb. 15 will have until Feb. 20 to finish the process as long as they are working with a Certified Insurance Agent, Certified Enrollment Counselor, plan-based enroller, county eligibility worker or Service Center representative at Covered California.
“We will help people get across the finish line in the days following the deadline, but you must take steps to begin the process by the 15th by starting an application or making an appointment,” Lee said. “Individuals who try to enroll online on the 16th will not be able to sign up online unless they have started and get help from one of the thousands of enrollers across the state.”
Lee also reminded consumers that those who can afford to buy insurance but choose not to may be subject to a financial penalty when they do their taxes, with penalties increasing substantially for tax year 2015.
The penalty, known as the “shared responsibility payment,” took effect in 2014, and many who were uninsured will see an impact when they prepare their taxes due in April of this year. However, because the penalty doubles in 2015, it’s important that uninsured Californians take steps now — before open enrollment ends — to avoid significant penalties when they prepare their 2015 taxes due next year.
“Under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans are now required to have health insurance,” Lee said. “As the penalty increases, it makes more and more sense for those who have been waiting on the sidelines to get in and get coverage.”
Nearly nine out of every 10 enrollees received some level of financial help in 2014 to pay their premiums. The estimated average amount received for a year’s coverage was more than $5,200 per household. That’s a real savings that is bringing health care within reach and changing lives.
Since open enrollment began on Nov. 15, more than 354,000 people have selected a plan, including 13,000 people on Tuesday — the second-highest single day of enrollment after the rush to meet the deadline on Dec. 15 to have coverage start on Jan. 1. They join the 944,000 consumers who signed up for coverage for 2014 and began the process of renewing their coverage for 2015.
As Covered California continues its second historic year, people are coming forward to share how getting insurance has changed their lives.
- In Los Angeles, Frankie Castaneda and her husband, Manuel, lost their insurance in 2013 when Frankie’s job as a beauty school instructor ended. Her former employer offered COBRA, but that insurance was unaffordable, so the coupled turned to Covered California and found a subsidized plan with a premium of $162 per month.
- Stella Chung is a 36-year-old yoga instructor who left her corporate job to follow her dream of starting her own yoga practice. Health insurance was too expensive, so she went without coverage. After a few medical scares, she got an expensive catastrophic plan. Now that she has a Covered California plan, her coverage is better and more affordable, and she’s getting free preventive care.
- Henry and Jill Alonzo are self-employed. Henry is an entertainment business consultant, and Jill is a mental health therapist. The 30-something couple had minimal health care coverage at times, used only for dire emergencies because the costs were so high. Expecting their second child, they signed up for coverage through Covered California and found an affordable plan.
“Up and down the state, I've met people whose lives are being changed by getting access to coverage and care,” Lee said. “I met a woman who got coverage and one month later saw a doctor who found aggressive cancer in time to save her life. In Los Angeles, I met a man who got a heart transplant that saved his life because he had Covered California coverage. That’s the true benefit of insurance, and the reason why anyone who doesn't have coverage should take steps to get it.”
Last week, Covered California released a report (www.CoveredCA.com/news/PDFs/impact-of-health-coverage-fact-sheet.pdf) based on data from the California Department of Public Health, the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that indicates that insurance coverage is helping improve care for a number of prominent health conditions, including asthma and diabetes.
- An estimated 8,700 more Californians will have access to care to better control their asthma.
- An estimated 45,064 Californians will be diagnosed with diabetes and could begin treatment.
- An estimated 63,922 Californians with diabetes will be able to increase their medication to control the disease.
- An estimated 36,527 Californians will avoid catastrophic medical expenses.
Hundreds of enrollment events are planned throughout California in the final days of open enrollment. Consumers can get assistance enrolling from more than 20,000 Certified Enrollment Counselors and Certified Insurance Agents who can provide free, confidential help. A list of enrollment locations, including more than 500 storefronts, and events by ZIP code can be found by visiting CoveredCA.com and clicking “Find Local Help.”
About Covered California
Covered California is the state’s marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Covered California, in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services, was charged with creating a new health insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to affordable health insurance plans. Covered California helps individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance that is available on a sliding-scale basis to reduce insurance costs or whether they are eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Small businesses can purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.
Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the new market 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.