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Covered California Enrollment Opens This Week, With New State Financial Aid For Some

Ana B. Ibarra/California Healthline
Covered California’s open enrollment bus tour makes a stop in Sacramento in 2017";

People buying insurance through Covered California might see lower prices this time around, following changes in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s most recent state budget.

Enrollment for the state’s health benefit exchange begins Oct. 15. Certain low-income Californians are already eligible for subsidies from the federal government to help pay their premiums, but this year there are new state dollars to help low and middle income residents.

Earlier this year the Care4All California coalition, which supports insuring all Californians regardless of income or immigration status, made a push for state-level premium assistance on top of the federal aid. Many low and middle-income consumers say they earn just a little too much to qualify for federal assistance, but not enough to comfortably pay for health insurance. Others say the federal help they get still isn’t enough to make ends meet.

In the budget, Newsom establishednew state credits for individuals making less than $17,000 a year and between $24,000 and $49,000 a year. Those Californians already receive federal assistance but will now get between $10 and $25 a month in new state aid. People who make between $17,000 and $24,000 are only eligible for federal subsidies.

And he created new subsidies, to the tune of about $120 a month, for individuals earning up to $73,000, who don’t currently get federal help. Economic experts say California is pioneering this kind of subsidy expansion.

Anthony Wright of the Care4All coalition said some enrollees will see these changes reflected when they look for plans using Covered California’s “shop and prepare” tool this year.

“They may actually see a decrease because of the new affordability assistance,” he said.

Two bills that won Newsom’s signature this weekend also aim to boost health insurance enrollment. 

SB 260 is designed to help people stay insured when they experience a life change, such as a new job or a raise. Starting in 2021, Covered California will be able to reach out directly to people who are at risk of losing Medi-Cal coverage and inform them of their options on the individual market. Supporters of the policy say it will be crucial when California’s minimum wage increases, potentially bumping people above the income threshold for Medi-Cal.

Another new law, AB 1309, extends Covered California’s enrollment window by two weeks. Sign-ups typically close on Jan.15, but this cycle they’ll extend until Jan. 31. Starting next season, enrollment will be open from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31. The Trump administration recently reduced the federal Medicaid enrollment window down to six weeks, from 12 weeks.

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