Covered California Continues to See Strong Interest and Reminds Consumers That Penalty Is Back for 2020 as Open-Enrollment Deadline Approaches
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Covered California announced new data as it approaches the final two weeks of the annual open-enrollment period and reminded consumers about the new state penalty and additional financial help that went into effect with the new year.
As of Saturday, Jan. 4, more than 269,000 consumers had newly signed up for health insurance through Covered California during the current open-enrollment period, which is an increase of 18 percent above the number of consumers who had enrolled at this time last year. In addition, more than 1.15 million existing Covered California members have renewed their coverage for 2020.
“Covered California continues to sign up thousands of people every day, but time is running out, so you need to act now if you want health insurance this year,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “We know that deadlines matter to people. Californians have through the end of the month to sign up and select a plan that will protect them and their families.”
The open-enrollment period runs through Jan. 31. It is the one time of the year when consumers can freely sign up for coverage without having to experience a qualifying life change. People who sign up by the deadline will have their coverage start on Feb. 1.
Having a health insurance plan in place this year is critical because of a new law that the state of California enacted that requires Californians to have coverage in 2020. Those who can afford coverage, but choose to go without it, could face a penalty when they file their taxes with the California Franchise Tax Board in 2021. The penalty can be more than $2,000 for a family of four.
“We do not want Californians to face a penalty; we want them to have quality health insurance that gives them access to some of the best doctors and facilities in the nation,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, far too many Californians are unaware of the new law or its consequences. That’s why we are working hard to get the message out while there is still time for people to enroll.”
A recent survey released by Covered California, Californians’ Understanding of the Mandate to Have Health Coverage and the Awareness of Financial Help,found the following:
- Many Californians, especially the uninsured, are unaware of the penalty.
Many Californians reported being unaware of the new requirement to have health coverage in 2020 or face a penalty, including a majority of the uninsured (56 percent).
- Knowledge of the penalty increases the likelihood the uninsured will enroll.
Among the uninsured, once informed about the penalty, 64 percent said they were more likely to enroll in health insurance for 2020. This compares to only 46 percent of uninsured respondents who said they planned to have health coverage in 2020 when asked at the beginning of the survey.
“The real penalty for not having health insurance is getting sick or injured and facing medical bills that are in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Lee said. “Health insurance provides security and peace of mind, and this year there is new financial help available to make that coverage more affordable.”
In addition to the state penalty, California also expanded the amount of financial help available to many consumers, including a first-in-the-nation program to help middle-income consumers afford coverage.
The new state subsidies could extend to an individual making up to $74,940 and a family of four with a household income of up to $154,500.
Right now, the average subsidy for eligible consumers earning less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level is $447 per month; the average state subsidy for eligible middle-income consumers is $469 per month.
The Jaramillo family in Salinas is one of the nearly 560,000 families benefiting from the new financial help. Thanks to federal tax credits and a new state subsidy of $45, they will be paying $57 a month for coverage that they say has already changed their lives.
“After we had the insurance, we were able to plan our second baby,” Yuriana Jaramillo said. “It was a blessing because without that insurance we wouldn’t be able to have our daughter.”
Click here to view and download the Jaramillos’ story.
“All it takes is just a few minutes to find out whether you are eligible for financial help from the federal government, the state, or both,” Lee said. “Do not leave money on the table; do not put yourself at risk if you get sick or ill; do not get stuck with a big bill when you pay your taxes in 2021.”
Californians Can Still Enroll
Covered California’s open-enrollment period runs through Jan. 31. Consumers can easily find out if they are eligible for financial help and see which plans are available in their area by entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage into Covered California’s Shop and Compare Tool.
Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can:
- Visit www.CoveredCA.com.
- Get free and confidential in-person assistance, in a variety of languages, from a certified enroller.
- Have a certified enroller call them and help them for free.
- Call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.
About Covered California
Covered California is the state’s health insurance marketplace, where Californians can find affordable, high-quality insurance from top insurance companies. Covered California is the only place where individuals who qualify can get financial assistance on a sliding scale to reduce premium costs. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Depending on their income, some consumers may qualify for the low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal program.
Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the health insurance marketplace work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the Legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.