New Covered CA Sign-Up Numbers Signal Need for More Affordability Assistance and Individual Mandate

Today, Covered California released its 2019 enrollment numbers, showing sharp declines in new sign-ups, but overall enrollees holding steady. The new report shows Covered California’s resiliency despite federal sabotage, with 1.2 million renewals and nearly 300,000 new enrollees, a total of 1.5 million enrollees. However, new sign-ups were down significantly – 23.7% – due to the elimination of the penalty to have health insurance by the Trump Administration & Congress and continued affordability barriers for those buying insurance through Covered California.

Covered California’s strong re-enrollment numbers show our state’s strategy to shield consumers from the sabotage of the Trump Administration has so far been successful. But the drop in new enrollments are a clarion call for continued and further state action to help people afford and enroll in coverage. These numbers provide new urgency to Governor Newsom’s health proposals, and prove that we should go further in providing additional affordability assistance. By enhancing subsidies to sign-up for coverage and continuing the individual mandate at the state level, California can prevent the federal sabotage of our health system and ultimately get us to a universal health system where everyone has the care and coverage they need and can afford.

The stability of Covered California’s enrollment despite federal sabotage is largely due to actions taken by the state to shield consumers from these attacks, such as longer open enrollment periods and broad marketing efforts, and more. But California has the power to take additional steps to encourage health care coverage such as increasing subsides for those that still find insurance unaffordable, and reinstating the penalty for not having health coverage. Governor Newsom has proposed a state level individual mandate which would raise money to assist people in affording care. But this Covered California report highlights the reality that Californians are struggling to afford care now, and cannot wait for longer solutions. The Care4All California campaign of over 60 health and consumer groups will advocate for immediate budget investments that help low-and middle-income Californians purchase health care for themselves and their families.

These numbers affirm that the steps we are taking towards universal coverage are working, but that we must keep taking strides forward. In additional to increased affordability assistance, we can also expand access to health care by opening up Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status. Together, these will get California closer to the goal of 1-3% uninsured rate seen in most European countries.