Open Enrollment Starts Today: Consumer Advocate Advice for Californians

Covered California is open for business!

Today, Covered California will begin open enrollment for around 1.4 million Californians, who will be able to choose among eleven health plans regardless of pre-existing conditions and get financial assistance to afford health coverage. California’s open enrollment will remain a 90-day period (ending on January 31, 2017), even as President Trump has cut that time in half for many other states.

Californians can and should continue to take advantage of the full benefits of Covered California this open enrollment period, where consumers can lock in coverage for 2018 and find financial assistance to help afford their health plan. Despite the Trump Administration’s attempts to undermine the Affordable Care Act, California continues to have a stable individual market, with eleven insurers staying in the marketplace. With our state taking pro-active steps to protect consumers, Californians are largely safeguarded from the sabotage of the Trump Administration, and should sign-up for the care and coverage they need and are entitled to.

Despite multiple federal attacks, affordability assistance continues to be available to ensure that 86% of the 1.4 million in Covered California will not have to pay more than a percentage of their income for a silver plan. Those who qualify for subsidies–which includes families of four who make up to $96,000–will be protected from rate hikes, including the “Trump tax” created from the President’s decision to defund cost-sharing subsidies. Most California consumers will be eligible for higher premium tax credits that will offset premium rate increases, shielding them from the rate hike. While it’s good that Covered California has developed this work around, it’s appalling that it had to be implemented in the first place. No matter what, consumers may be confused, and some may even choose not to enroll because of it.

Consumers should not be scared off by premiums at the first glance as they may be eligible for financial assistance, or cheaper options. Those who are subsidized should take advantage of the silver plan cost-sharing reductions; those who are not subsidized can avoid the 12% surcharge caused by the President’s actions by choosing from other tiers or even off the exchange.

This means it’s more important than ever that consumers actively shop and compare plans. The best deal last year is not necessarily the best deal this year. Instead of just renewing your existing coverage, shopping around could limit rate increases to as little as three percent. Over 96% of Covered California consumers will have at least 2 plan choices and 82% of consumers will have more than 3 plans to choose from. If your plan is leaving your area, California has instituted protections through SB 133 (Hernandez), to ensure that you will have continuity of care and can keep seeing your doctor if you’re in the middle of treatment.

The federal fight around health care isn’t over, but that shouldn’t stop any Californian from meeting their critical coverage and care needs. To protect our progress on health care, the best thing we can do is sign up for coverage, and then make it really hard for our Congressmembers to take it away.

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Covered California: Shop & Compare Tool

Department of Managed Care: Continuity of Care information

Health Access Fact Sheet: What The Loss of Federal Funding for Cost-Sharing Subsidies Could Mean for Californians