By Covered California
Covered California recently kicked off open enrollment for the upcoming 2020 coverage year, which features some of the biggest changes in the exchange’s history.
“Open enrollment is underway, and now is the time to sign up for quality health coverage that will begin on Jan. 1,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “We want to make sure Californians know about the new state subsidies that mean almost one million people can get more help with their premiums, and the restoration of the individual mandate law, which requires people to have health insurance if they can afford it.”
The two new state initiatives — the state subsidy program and the restoration of the individual mandate — are key elements in Covered California’s record-low 0.8% rate increase for the upcoming year.
The new state subsidies will help lower the cost of coverage for almost one million California consumers. The main groups of people who are projected to benefit are:
• Middle-income Californians who previously did not qualify for financial help because their incomes exceeded federal limits. The amount of their subsidy will vary based on their age and income and the health care costs in their region. While the state subsidy for this group will average $172 per household per month, consumers will need to input their information to see what amount they would receive. For example, while some consumers may get a monthly state subsidy of $50, others could get $150, and some could receive $750 or more.
• Covered California enrollees, who currently receive federal financial help, could be eligible to receive an average of an additional $15 per household per month.
“California will be making history this year, becoming the first state in the nation to make coverage more affordable for middle-income families like small-businesses owners, entrepreneurs, contractors and gig economy workers,” Lee said. “During our first day of renewal, a family of two from Sonoma received a state subsidy of $630 per month, which is why it’s so important for people to see if they qualify.”
In addition, a Covered California analysis found that 75% of existing consumers will be able to reduce their cost of coverage and receive the same level of benefits if they switch to the lowest-cost plan in the same metal tier.
“Covered California puts consumers in the driver’s seat, and a majority of our current enrollees could pay less than they did last year because they can shop around and get a better deal,” Lee said.
Covered California began its statewide outreach campaign on Oct. 30 with a new marketing campaign that includes television ads. The ads, titled “You Shouldn’t Have To,” center on the idea that when you have health insurance, you do not need to make tough choices like whether to try self-treatment or see a doctor.
Also new in the campaign this year is a reminder that Covered California is “in your corner” and is a free service that helps people find the health insurance that’s right for them.
“Our name is well known, but every year the research continues to show that some consumers still don’t understand the role Covered California plays in helping them find comprehensive, affordable health insurance,” Lee said. “We want Californians to know that we are a free service that helps them get health coverage that works for them.”
In addition, research shows that some consumers still do not know they qualify for financial help.
“You can get a quote within minutes by using our Shop and Compare tool, so even if you have checked before, the new financial help available makes it worth it to check again,” Lee said. “Don’t leave money on the table when you may be able to get health coverage for less than you think.”
The outreach effort will include traveling throughout California to promote enrollment by visiting enrollment locations, meeting with partners and conducting 10 televised phone banks in Spanish and Mandarin.
New this year is a partnership between Covered California and well-known California athletes. There will be live events at four locations across the state where these trusted voices, who are committed to healthy lifestyles, will help spread the word that now is the time to sign up for health coverage through Covered California. More details about the events will be announced as they approach.
“Once again, we are making a significant investment to make sure all Californians know there are big changes this year, with new financial support and a new law that requires everyone to have coverage,” Lee said. “We will be on television and radio, in newspapers and online, and increasingly in the digital world, where more and more Californians get their information.”
Restoring the individual mandate
In addition, California restored the individual mandate that was part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from 2014 through 2018, once again making it the law to have health coverage starting in 2020. Consumers who do not get covered could face a penalty administered by the Franchise Tax Board when they file their 2020 taxes in the spring of 2021.
“Nearly nine out of 10 Covered California consumers receive financial help, which saves them an average of 80% off the price of their coverage,” Lee said. “If you choose to go uninsured next year, even though you can afford the coverage, you could face a penalty that could climb into the thousands of dollars.”
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.
“Consumers need to take action now during open enrollment,” Lee said. “This is when people can sign up to get health insurance and avoid the potential of a big surprise when they file their taxes in 2021.”
Getting help enrolling
Consumers will need to sign up by Dec. 15 in order to have their coverage begin on Jan. 1, 2020. 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.