Covered California’s Enrollment Deadline Now Extended to Feb. 9

KQED
January 31, 2023
By Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí

The deadline to enroll in a health care plan through Covered California — the state’s health insurance marketplace that offers hundreds of low-cost coverage plans — has been extended until Friday, Feb. 9.

Previously, the deadline to sign up for a plan was Wednesday, Jan. 31.

State officials made the announcement through a press release on Wednesday, explaining that Covered California’s service center was recently taken offline in response to a cybersecurity incident that affected the third-party vendor that supports its phone lines. Many residents who tried to sign up for a health care plan by calling the service center experienced long wait times, the release said, which also noted that “at this time,” there was no indication that any members’ personal information was compromised.

“We want any Californian who needs health insurance to have the opportunity to get covered for the rest of 2024, and extending the open-enrollment period will ensure they have the time they need,” Covered California Executive Director Jessica Altman said.

Ways to sign up

Consumers have several ways to find a health care plan — not just over the phone. One option is visiting Covered California’s website at coveredca.com.

If your job doesn’t provide health insurance and you don’t qualify for Medi-Cal, you may be eligible for a Covered California plan. Thanks to a mix of federal and state subsidies, many plans offer monthly premiums under $30.

If you are undocumented, you can also look for an insurance plan through Covered California — but you’ll have to meet the income requirements for Medi-Cal.

California is one of two states that requires residents to pay a penalty if uninsured. The penalty for not having coverage the entire year would be at least $900 per adult when you file taxes this year. If you have a child under 18 that is dependent on you, that’s an additional $450 per kid.

An increase in enrollment

More than 243,000 people have already signed up this enrollment period, state officials said — a 13% increase from last year. California already boasts one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country, with only 6.2% of non-elderly Californians lacking health insurance, according to a 2023 report from the California Health Care Foundation. When the state launched its insurance marketplace in 2013, the uninsured rate was around 17%.

The nation’s top health official, United States Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, visited San Francisco on Tuesday to mark these new figures, and offered uninsured Californians a last push of encouragement to apply to Covered California (before the deadline extension was then announced on Wednesday).

“My mother would always say, mejor prevenir que remediar — better to prevent than to remediate an illness,” Becerra said. “Health care insurance helps you prevent your children from becoming ill. If you don’t have insurance, you wait till they’re so ill they have to go to the hospital.”

At the national level, 21.3 million people nationwide enrolled in a health care plan this year through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces. Many are receiving subsidies for their plans owing to the Inflation Reduction Act that Congress passed in 2022, and Becerra said he hoped Congress would vote to keep those subsidies in place.

Despite multiple attempts by Congressional Republicans each year to repeal ACA — also known as Obamacare —  marketplaces have only grown since the health care law passed in 2010. “There was talk that when the Affordable Care Act launched, insurers would not buy in because it wouldn’t be a profitable enterprise for them,” Becerra said.

“Well, they’re in. Now what’s happening is they’re offering a panoply of plans; it’s tough to figure out which one is good for you,” he added.

“So we’re going to move more towards requiring the plans [to] provide some standardization, so people can make some good guesses about what might be good for them,” Becerra said.

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