Covered California, the state exchange, is now open again for enrollment, and there are lots of changes on the horizon to be aware of! While federal efforts to dismantle or repeal the Affordable Care Act persist, California advocates and policymakers are working hard to make health insurance more affordable for all Californians and to control health care costs.
Covered California will offer new financial help
Starting in 2020, Covered California will offer new financial help to more Californians than ever before. Covered California is providing additional financial assistance to individuals below 138 percent FPL, and between 200 – 400 percent FPL. Additionally, for the first time, Covered California is offering financial assistance to individuals up to 600 percent FPL who are not eligible for federal subsidies.
California is the first state in the nation to offer state financial help to middle income consumers with an income up to $154,500
This means financial help will soon be available for a family of 4 with a household income up to $154,500. Roughly 75 percent of existing Covered California consumers could pay less than they did in 2019 if they switch to the lowest-cost plan in the same tier. Although states like Massachusetts and Vermont already offer state-funded subsidies to wrap around federal subsidies, California is the first state in the nation to offer state financial help to middle-income consumers.
California reinstates individual mandate penalty for tax year 2020
California is also reinstating the individual mandate penalty for tax year 2020. The federal tax penalty went away in 2019, but starting in January 2020, Californians will be required to sign up for health insurance, seek an exemption, or face a tax penalty. You can read more about the tax penalty here. Covered California estimates that the state subsidies and the state tax penalty together will result in roughly 229,000 people becoming newly insured.
Covered California’s open enrollment period will now run from October 15, 2019 through January 31, 2020
Additionally, Covered California’s open enrollment period will now run from October 15, 2019 through January 31, 2020 because a new law (AB 1309, Bauer-Kahan) extends the date Californians have to sign up for health coverage so that consumers have adequate time to pick the best plan for themselves and their families. This is more than twice as long as the federal exchange’s scaled back open enrollment period. Keep in mind that consumers need to pick a plan by December 15th in order to have coverage begin January 1, 2020. The bill also changes the enrollment date for people who sign up between January 16 – January 31 from March 1st to February 1st, streamlining the time it takes to get coverage.
Concerns that consumers won’t look into Covered California, because they don’t know how much financial assistance is available
With all these changes, advocates and enrollment assistants have their work cut out for them to inform consumers. There is concern that some consumers won’t look into a Covered California plan either because they don’t know how much financial assistance is available to them or they are unaware of the new state tax penalty. Consumer confusion is compounded by the myriad of federal efforts to sabotage the Affordable Care Act which have led to confusing and sometimes, contradictory, messaging about health coverage in the media.
If California had not taken action, Californians uninsured population would have increased to 4.4 million by 2023
California’s efforts to expand affordable ACA coverage are commendable and should serve as a model to the nation and other state-based exchanges. If California had not taken action, Californians uninsured population would have increased to 4.4 million by 2023. Find out more about your coverage and financial assistance options by using the Shop and Compare Tool.