Special enrollment for Covered California provides new sign-up opportunities
Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, is providing opportunities for Californians to sign-up for health insurance through special enrollment. Special enrollment allows Californians to sign up for health insurance and obtain financial assistance to lower the cost of monthly premiums, even though open enrollment ended on Jan. 31st.
“Californians can still protect themselves and their families with quality health insurance for the rest of the year, if they have had a major change in their lives,” Executive Director Jessica Altman said. “If you have recently lost your coverage, gotten married, had a baby, or have been affected by California’s winter storms, visit CoveredCA.com to check out what plans are available for you.”
On Jan. 4th, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency due to this season’s winter storms, which brought heavy rain, strong winds, and flooding threats. Covered California created a new qualifying life event for special enrollment for those affected by the historic winter storms. Californians will have until March 5th to sign-up for coverage.
Lower costs are now available due to the increased and expanded financial assistance provided through the Inflation Reduction Act. Currently, nine out of every 10 Covered California enrollees qualify for financial assistance due to the expanded and increased subsidies. Additionally, over two-thirds of enrollees are able to get comprehensive coverage for less than $10 per month.
“The storms disrupted the lives of thousands of people across the state, and we want to make sure that those affected know that they can still get financial help to make it easier to afford a quality health insurance plan,” Altman said. “Californians come together when disaster strikes, and one way we can help our friends and neighbors is by making sure they have the access to the care that they need.”
Covered California’s additional qualifying life events include the loss of coverage status as a dependent due to domestic abuse or spousal abandonment, turning 26 years, having a household income 150% below the federal poverty level, and returning from active-duty military service, among others. If individuals have experienced one qualifying life event within the last 60 days, they can apply for a health plan or make changes to their current plan.
Last year, legislators attempted to pass Senate Bill 944, which would have increased affordability assistance under Covered California. By September, Newsom vetoed the bill.
The bill would have required Covered California to eliminate deductibles for all benefits, and substantially reduce cost-sharing including copays, coinsurance, and maximum out-of-pocket costs. Newsom proposed approximately $300 million in state-only premium subsidies in 2022-23 to partially offset the loss of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) affordability assistance, with the goal of reserving the proposed funds for when ARPA sunsets.
“I am concerned about a downturn in revenues that may make such a new program unsustainable, especially in light of our important commitment to fund the expansion of the Medi-Cal program in 2024 to remaining low-income populations,” Newsom said. “Rather, the funds should be reserved to ensure that state-only premium subsidies are available again when they are most needed.”
With the new year comes new efforts to expand and improve access to Covered California. Asm. Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D – Fresno) introduced Assembly Bill 4, which, if passed, would expand Covered California access to all Californians, regardless of immigration status.