The calendar has turned to 2018, and Covered California is in the homestretch of its drive to sign people up for health insurance by Jan. 31, the final day to enroll.
As an incentive, the agency, which administers the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the state, is touting lower prices and financial assistance available to most Californians who qualify.
“The time is now to ring in the New Year with a quality health plan that provides protection and peace of mind,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “We have seen thousands of people signing up every day as we near this key deadline. The demand — as well as the need — for health insurance is as strong today as it was when we first began offering coverage five years ago, and the people of California are taking advantage of the quality plans and lower costs available through Covered California.”
As of Sunday, Jan. 21, 342,000 new consumers have signed up for health insurance through Covered California. The pace of new enrollees for the current open-enrollment period remains ahead of last year, when sign-ups did not surpass 320,000 until Jan. 23, 2017. In addition to the new sign-ups, more than 1.2 million existing Covered California members have renewed their coverage for 2018.
For those looking for help to sign up, Covered California has built an extensive network of Asian-language resources, including online resources available in Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Lao, Tagalog and Hmong.
A recent Covered California analysis found that the net monthly premiums for enrollees who receive financial help are on average 10 percent lower than what new and renewing consumers paid last year. The lower prices are a result of more financial help being available for consumers who qualify for assistance. The Affordable Care Act is designed to protect consumers by providing more premium tax credits when premiums rise.
“With the Jan. 31 deadline approaching, we want to make sure that consumers know about the increased financial help that is available to help bring health care coverage within reach,” Lee said. “When you do the math, hundreds of thousands of Californians are the winners — getting quality coverage at lower rates than last year.”
What individuals will pay varies based on their circumstances, including whether they get subsidies to help purchase coverage, where they live and the plan options they choose, Lee said.
The analysis found that consumers who select a Silver-tier plan are on average paying $3 per month less than they were in 2017, while consumers who select a Gold-tier plan will pay on average $78 less per month.
Covered California also wants to remind consumers that the Affordable Care Act’s individual shared responsibility payment, often called the individual mandate, remains in place throughout calendar year 2018. People who do not have health insurance could face stiff tax penalties if they are not covered. These penalties are a minimum of $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, up to $2,085 per family, or at least 2.5 percent of annual household income — whichever is greater (for an estimated maximum penalty of $3,816 per individual and $19,080 for a family of five). The recent tax bill removes the penalty but it does not go into effect until 2019. There is no reason to give the IRS that money when it could go toward giving you and your family the peace of mind of having health insurance.
Since 2014, more than 3 million people have purchased health insurance through Covered California, and nearly 4 million have enrolled in the state’s Medi-Cal program. Together, the gains have cut the rate of the uninsured in California from 17 percent in 2013 to a historic low of 6.8 percent as of June 2017.
Consumers can also get free and confidential enrollment assistance by visiting www.coveredca.com/find-help/ and searching among 800 storefronts statewide and the more than 17,000 certified enrollers who can assist consumers in understanding their choices and enrolling, including individuals who can assist in other languages. In addition, consumers can reach the Covered California service center by calling (800) 300-1506.