Covered California providing health care coverage during pandemic

Over 123,000 Californians have enrolled for health care coverage through Covered California since the COVID-19 pandemic crisis began in March.

Erik Wolford enrolled in early-April, and he got covered just in time.

Wolford, 49, is a cinematographer in Hollywood, enrolled right after coming back from filming a documentary in Africa. A few days after his return, he tested positive for COVID-19.

“I got diagnosed with COVID and had mild symptoms, which means I did not need to be intubated,” Wolford said. “This is not like the regular flu or a cold. I felt like a dump truck ran me over and when it saw I was alive, it came back to run me over again. Make no mistake: This is serious.”

The enrollment data covers the period from March 20, when Covered California opened the health insurance exchange to any eligible uninsured individuals who need health care coverage amid the COVID-19 emergency, through May 20. The pace of sign-ups during this eight-week period has been more than 2.5 times the level that Covered California saw during the same period in 2019.

“During this challenging time, Covered California continues to see tremendous interest, with thousands of people signing up for quality health care coverage each day,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “We want to remind consumers that if they lost their health insurance, or were uninsured when this crisis began, there is a path to coverage for them through either Covered California or Medi-Cal.”

Wolford considers himself very lucky, as his doctor told him to stay home and monitor his symptoms. If his fever stayed under 104 degrees, and his oxygen levels were OK, he did not need to go to the hospital.

Wolford got an O2 meter, or “finger pulse oximeter.” He learned that if his oxygen levels were between 95-100 he was fine, but if it dropped between 90-94 or lower it was a concern. If his lips turned purple or blue and if he was not completing his sentences, he needed to call 911.

“I think I got COVID-19 on the plane,” Wolford said. “I was in Africa, shooting a feature in Tanzania. When I got back home to L.A., the first thing I did was to enroll in Covered California.”

He reached out to a certified Covered California agent because he had been enrolled previously in 2018. Wolford left the state marketplace when he got health insurance through his union, but he returned in time to be covered during this harrowing ordeal.
“Covered California allows me to take on passion projects where I am able to make a difference and to contribute to the world like filming wild animals in Africa, instead of staying in a union job because I need health insurance,” he said.

Wolford plans to stay with Covered California. He said he doesn’t know what the aftermath of COVID-19 will be on his health. He still looks a bit frail, even though he got a letter from the Health Department stating that he is now clear of COVID-19.

In May, he started working on another feature. This time he is staying in Los Angeles and as a sign of the times – his crew will be just one other person.

For Covered California’s current special-enrollment period, which allows any eligible individual who needs health insurance amid the COVID-19 emergency to sign up for coverage, the eligibility requirements are similar to those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, and consumers can sign up for coverage through June 30.

Consumers can visit and find out if they are eligible for Covered California or Medi-Cal, and see which plans are available in their area, by using the Shop and Compare Tool and entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage. People who sign up through Covered California will have their coverage begin on the first day of the following month. Also, when applying, those found eligible for Medi-Cal can have coverage that is effective retroactively to the first day of the month from when they submitted their application.

In addition to enrolling online, consumers who need health care coverage can visit Covered California’s Find Help page to get assistance over the phone from one of Covered California’s thousands of Certified Insurance Agents like Wolford did. Also, Help on Demand allows consumers to get a call back from a certified enrollee.

Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can also call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.

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