In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Californians losing jobs or hours are also losing their health care coverage. To help ensure that Californians are covered, Covered California, our state-based marketplace, announced an extension of the open enrollment period by another month, through the end of July.
This extension is for both CoveredCA and off-exchange plans. Over 6 million Californians have filed for unemployment during the pandemic, and Covered California has seen a surge in enrollment of over 175,000 people.
Health coverage is crucial at all times, but in the middle of a global pandemic it’s essential to ensure the health and well-being of yourself and your family. Especially for those who have lost employer-based coverage, Californians should take advantage of the new state investments making care as affordable as ever for many low and middle-income households. We urge everyone to take this opportunity to connect with crucial coverage and care.
California is the only state that offers both federal and state subsidies to middle-income individuals (earning up to $75,000/year) and families (of four earning up to $150,000/year) in Covered California which makes it an affordable option for many Californians. According to Covered California, roughly 576,000 lower-income consumers are receiving an average of $608 per month, per household in federal tax credits and new state subsidies. This financial help lowers the average household monthly premium from $881 to $272, a decrease of 70 percent. In addition, nearly 32,000 middle-income consumers are receiving an average state subsidy of $504 per month, lowering their monthly premium by nearly half. While the extended enrollment period is also in effect for off-exchange plans, the subsides are only available if you enroll through Covered California.
State and federal dollars also fund Medi-Cal (our state’s version of Medicaid) to ensure more people can sign up and access the no-cost program. Covered California’s website includes a page with a portal to sign up for Medi-Cal for those who are income-eligible, which has seen a 50 percent increase in traffic over the same period last year.
The interest in Covered California only highlights the challenge that many Californians now face to find affordable health care coverage. We need to keep investing in financial assistance for the over 1.5 million Californians enrolled, and help sign-up many more. Congress must step in with funds to support both the exchanges and Medicaid programs, and the state legislature must look into options for expanding subsides when possible.
This year, along with the increased financial assistance, California instituted a state-level “individual mandate” which requires Californians to have health care coverage for at least 9 months of the year or face a tax penalty. Those who are below a certain income level will not need to pay the penalty.