Open enrollment is under way, and if you want to benefit from a full year of coverage starting Jan. 1, you need to enroll by Dec. 15.
While it’s the third year of this historic initiative, many Californians do not know about all the benefits of the Affordable Care Act — including the financial assistance to help consumers pay for coverage and care. New research shows that 36 percent of the uninsured say they do not know about the financial assistance available to them that can help get them health coverage.
This is significant because the same research shows that the financial help, also known as a subsidy or tax credit, is the most important factor that drives people to sign up for health care coverage.
Since 2014, more than 2 million have signed up for health insurance coverage through Covered California. More than 350,000 people in Los Angeles County have been enrolled, and many more have enrolled in Medi-Cal.
Although we have all worked together to dramatically raise awareness about the new law, we have more work to do.
We estimate there are still more than 2 million uninsured people in the state who either are eligible for Covered California or qualify for no-cost or low-cost Medi-Cal. Approximately 600,000 of them live in Los Angeles County.
Many of the uninsured have adopted what we call a “culture of coping.” They are surviving, day to day. They skip care, they split medications, and they rely on emergency services when their situation becomes too tough. They believe that health insurance is beyond their reach.
Through Covered California, many consumers can get financial help, or a tax subsidy, that can be worth hundreds of dollars per month and make health care a reality.
We are spotlighting the fact that more than half of those who are currently enrolled in Covered California pay less than $100 a month, with the balance being covered by the federal tax credit. That is real affordability.
You can find out if you qualify for financial help, and examine your plan options, by using the “Shop and Compare Tool” at CoveredCA.com.
Consumers in Los Angeles County can have that protection by enrolling in Covered California and choosing among seven health insurance companies offering plans in their area: Anthem Blue Cross of California, Blue Shield of California, Health Net, Kaiser Permanente, L.A. Care Health Plan, Molina Healthcare and, new for 2016, Oscar Health Plan of California — which will offer plans in parts of the county.
Going forward, we will be spotlighting enrollment events at storefronts, offices of insurance agents, community events and other locations. Localized help information is available at CoveredCA.com.
This year’s open-enrollment period runs until Jan. 31. However, if you qualify for Medi-Cal, you can enroll at any point during the year.
If you or someone you know doesn’t have health care coverage, this is the opportunity to get coverage. Now is the time to talk to your friends and family about getting covered and getting some peace of mind.
No matter what happens in your life, whether you are following your dream as a small-business owner or whether you are in between jobs, — Covered California will be there for you.
Make sure you know about the new plans and expanded coverage that will give you access to more doctors and more facilities than ever before. Shop around for the plan that best fits your budget and health care needs.
Make sure you know about the significant improvements to our plans, including family dental plans, and more benefits being accessible without being subject to a deductible.
Make sure you know that the penalty for going without insurance if you can afford it is going up in 2016 — and going up big time. If you don’t get coverage, you could be subject to a penalty of up to almost $200 per month. But the bigger “penalty” is what you would have to pay if you went to the emergency room without coverage and walked out with a $30,000 bill.
So, please, tell your family and friends. Spread the word. Help us make Los Angeles County, and California, a better, healthier place for all of us.
Peter V. Lee is executive director of Covered California.