California extends special-enrollment deadline to give consumers more time to sign up for health care coverage during COVID-19 pandemic

Covered California announced on Tuesday that it would be giving consumers more time to sign up for health care coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic by extending the current special-enrollment deadline through the end of July.

“Covered California is committed to helping people get access to the health care they need, and while California is reopening parts of the state, there is still a lot of uncertainty out there due to the pandemic,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “We want to make sure that people have a path to coverage, whether it is through Covered California or Medi-Cal, and giving people more time to sign up is the right thing to do.”

Covered California initially opened the health insurance exchange to any eligible uninsured individuals, who needed health care coverage amid the COVID-19 nation emergency, from March 20 to June 30. The new deadline means that anyone who meets Covered California’s eligibility requirements, which are similar to those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, can apply for coverage through July 31.

 

 

The most recent data shows that 175,030 people have signed up for health care coverage between March 20 and June 20, which is more than twice the number who signed up during the same time last year.

Every year, Covered California provides eligible consumers the opportunity to sign up for health care coverage outside of the traditional open-enrollment period if they experience a qualifying life event. These can include events like losing your health insurance, moving, getting married or having a baby.

Overall, 242,600 people have signed up for coverage since Jan. 31, when Covered California ended its open-enrollment period, through June 20, which is nearly twice as many as seen during the same time period last year.

People who sign up through Covered California will have access to private health insurance plans with monthly premiums that may be lowered due to federal and new state financial help that became effective in 2020. After selecting a plan, their coverage would begin on the first day of the following month — meaning individuals losing job-based coverage would not face a gap in coverage.

The latest data from California’s Employment Development Department shows that 6.3 million unemployment claims have been processed in the state since the pandemic started.

“We know that when people lose their jobs, they often lose the health care coverage that was protecting them and their families,” Lee said. “While Californians who lose coverage can always sign up outside of open enrollment, we want to make sure even those who have lost work and did not have insurance have access to the health care in the middle of a pandemic.”

Medi-Cal and Off-Exchange Coverage

In addition, consumers who sign up through CoveredCA.com may find out that they are eligible for no-cost or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal, which they can enroll in online. Those eligible for Medi-Cal can have coverage that is immediately effective.

California has suspended Medi-Cal renewal reviews through the end of the public health emergency, ensuring that those already enrolled can continue their coverage and freeing up resources to quickly process new enrollments. The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) also received expanded authority to expedite enrollment for seniors and other vulnerable populations, expand the use of telehealth and take other steps to make it easier to access care.

“The ongoing challenges of COVID-19 make it vital that we help Californians get into and stay in Medi-Cal and Covered California health coverage. The goal is to make it easier to access needed care and services during these difficult times,” said Will Lightbourne, recently named as the new director of the Department of Health Care Services.

DHCS oversees Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid, which provides coverage for about 13 million Californians.

The California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) and the California Department of Insurance have also extended the special-enrollment period through July 31, 2020, which applies to all health plans on the individual market, including off-exchange health plans. This will ensure consumers enrolling in the entire individual market in California will have access to coverage during the pandemic.

“We want to make sure that Californians can access comprehensive and affordable health care coverage options when they need it,” said DMHC Director Shelley Rouillard. “The DMHC continues to work closely with our state partners and the health plans we regulate to protect the health and safety of the people of this state. Taking this important action to extend the special-enrollment period will help those impacted by the COVID-19 emergency.”

“With Californians continuing to experience job loss and, with it, the loss of employer-based insurance, the ability to access individual health insurance coverage is even more critical,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Substantial federal and state premium subsidies are available through Covered California to continue to keep quality, essential coverage within reach, especially during these extremely challenging times.”

All Covered California and Medi-Cal Plans Offer Telehealth Options

All health plans available through Covered California and Medi-Cal provide telehealth options for enrollees, giving individuals the ability to connect with a health care professional by phone or video without having to personally visit a doctor’s office or hospital.

All screening and testing for COVID-19 is free of charge. This includes telehealth or doctor’s office visits, as well as network emergency room or urgent care visits for the purpose of screening and testing for COVID-19. In addition, Medi-Cal covers costs associated with COVID-19 in both its managed care plans and with fee-for-service providers. Covered California health plans will help cover costs that arise from any required treatment or hospitalization.

This press release was provided by Covered California and continues here