Covered California extends special-enrollment deadline during COVID-19 pandemic

Due to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the state, Covered California announced on Wednesday that it would give consumers additional time to sign up for health care coverage during the pandemic by extending the current special-enrollment deadline to the end of August.

“We are all doing our part in this health crisis, by wearing masks and practicing social distancing, and Covered California is committed to helping people access the health care they need,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “As the battle against the pandemic continues, we want to give people every possible opportunity to get health care coverage, whether it is through Covered California or Medi-Cal.”

Covered California initially responded to the COVID-19 emergency by opening the health insurance exchange to any eligible uninsured individuals who needed health care coverage from March 20 to June 30, which was then extended to July 31.



The most recent data shows that 231,040 people have signed up through Covered California for health care coverage between March 20 and July 25, 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, 298,600 people have signed up for coverage since Jan. 31, when Covered California ended its open-enrollment period, through July 25, which is nearly twice as many as seen during the same time period last year.

The latest data from California’s Employment Development Department shows that 8.7 million unemployment claims have been processed in the state since the pandemic started. 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.

“Covered California is always open and available for people who lose their job-based health insurance,” Lee said. “During this time, we also want to make sure that those who do not have health insurance also have access to the care in the middle of a pandemic.”

Medi-Cal and Off-Exchange Coverage

In addition, consumers who sign up through 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 halted Medi-Cal renewal reviews and discontinuances through the end of the public health emergency, ensuring that those already enrolled can continue their coverage. The decision will free up county resources to process new enrollments. The Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) also received expanded authority to expedite enrollment for seniors and other vulnerable populations through Hospital Presumptive Eligibility; expand the use of telehealth; and to provide COVID-19 testing, testing-related services and treatment to the uninsured, among other steps to make it easier to access care.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, DHCS has worked to make our system more flexible to help get services to Medi-Cal beneficiaries in virtually every way possible,” said Will Lightbourne, director of the Department of Health Care Services. “We want to meet people where they are, whether they are dealing with COVID-19 exposure or they have other health care needs that have become more difficult to address because of COVID-19.”

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

The California Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) and the California Department of Insurance have also extended the special-enrollment period through Aug. 31, 2020, which applies to all health plans on the individual market, including off-exchange health plans.

“California is continuing to feel the impacts of this pandemic, and the DMHC is committed to helping those affected by the COVID-19 emergency,” said acting DMHC Director Mary Watanabe. “Extending the special-enrollment period will provide continued access to comprehensive and affordable health care coverage options for those who need it.”

“Our latest action to extend the enrollment period is good news for workers and families experiencing the stress of job loss due to the pandemic,” said Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. “Even if your income has dropped, premium subsidies are available to help you afford quality insurance coverage.”

This press release was provided by Covered California and continues here