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By: Sarah Wang

Although Covered California’s open enrollment period has ended, if you are uninsured you may be able to apply for health insurance during the special enrollment period. Covered California is our state insurance exchange, created as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare). It offers a variety of health insurance plans depending on your needs. Most individuals who qualify for coverage receive federal subsidies to help cover the cost of the plan. In fact, 9 in 10 Californians who enroll are eligible for premium subsidies! Plans are designed to be affordable. You also cannot be denied for having preexisting conditions.

There is much speculation about what will happen to the ACA on a federal level. Recently, the House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act, in an effort to dismantle the ACA. This is the first step in a long and ongoing process, which could result in monumental changes to the health care system. This bill, if enacted, would be devastating for California. It has a disproportionately devastating impact on low-income individuals, and those with pre-existing conditions. There could be a massive reduction in federal investment for Medicaid, which will result in millions losing coverage. Federal subsidies, which many Americans rely on to buy their coverage, would be significantly cut. The bill will move to the Senate next. The Senate will hear testimonies from experts, amend the bill, and then take its own actions. The House and Senate must ultimately reach an agreement on the final version. Changes in health care do not happen overnight. Despite any possible changes in health care at a national level, rest assured – Covered California health plans and financial assistance are locked in for 2017. Covered California remains committed to providing consumers with high quality, affordable health insurance coverage.

It can be hard to prioritize buying health insurance if you and your family are healthy, but it’s important to protect your physical and financial health. Preventive services (including immunizations, health screenings, physicals, etc.) are provided free of charge, regardless of the plan you choose. Enroll now, and join your fellow Californians in having one less thing to worry about!

Even though the open enrollment period has ended, you can still qualify during special enrollment if you have what is called a “Qualifying Life Event” – such as a loss in coverage, birth of a new child, a job change, marriage/divorce, etc. Consumers have 60 days from the date of the event to enroll in a plan or change their existing plan. If 60 days pass and consumers do not sign up, they will have to wait until the next open enrollment period or another qualifying life event. If you are eligible for Medi-Cal, you can enroll at any time.

You may be eligible for coverage during special enrollment if you:

  • Lose your health coverage
  • Turn 26 and are no longer eligible to stay on your parent’s plan
  • Move (for example, if you move to California from another state)
  • Change jobs
  • Have a new child, or adopt a child
  • Get married or divorced
  • Become a citizen or are now lawfully present

These are just some examples. Visit www.CoveredCA.com or call 800-300-1506 for more information and to find out if you qualify. You can also get help from Covered California Certified Enrollment Counselors at your local community health center, county eligibility workers, and Covered California Certified Insurance Agents. Once you apply, you may receive documents requesting that you verify your qualifying life event.

Enroll today – it’s good for your health and the health of your family!

Sarah Wang is a Project Coordinator at the Community Clinic Consortium, which is a member of the Solano Coalition for Better Health.