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The Covered California deadline is today. Here’s how to sign up.

Health Navigator Tamara Camacho helps people enroll in health insurance and other benefits over the phone at a Community Health Works office in Sacramento on Thursday, Jan 25, 2024.
Kate Wolffe
Health Navigator Tamara Camacho helps people enroll in health insurance and other benefits over the phone at a Community Health Works office in Sacramento on Thursday, Jan 25, 2024.

The last opportunity to sign up for health insurance for 2024 through California’s marketplace, Covered California, is this week. The deadline is Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 11:59 p.m.

Covered California was created with the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act in 2010 and provides a centralized place for anyone who may not receive affordable health care through an employer to sign up for a plan.

It’s available to people of all income levels, although people who are considered low-income are the only ones who will qualify for a plan with financial assistance. Covered California will also point you toward Medi-Cal if you’re eligible.

You can check your eligibility using Covered California’s online automatic quote feature. The more members applying in your household, the more help you qualify for.

Costs less than a night out

Twenty-two-year-old Citrus Heights resident Kristina Gutsan was snowboarding in Lake Tahoe, on her last run down the slopes, when she saw someone fall in front of her. She knew she’d crash into them if she didn’t stop herself, so she fell back, throwing her hands behind her to break the fall. She heard two snaps.

“And then I laid for like 10 minutes in the snow literally praying for my life because I couldn't feel my hands,” she said.

When the feeling returned, she inspected the damage. She suspected her wrists were sprained, and one could be broken. She says the next morning she went to the emergency room, where she found out she’d been dropped from the health care provided by her employer because she hadn’t worked enough hours. She left the hospital without receiving care.

She says she remembered a family member was a health worker at Community Health Works in Sacramento, so she made an appointment. Now, she’s enrolled in a plan that’s heavily subsidized by the federal government and will get medical assistance when her plan kicks in in February.

“So I'm only going to be paying about $8 a month for health [insurance] and then $15 dollars for dental,” she said. “People pay more to go out.”

Enrollment surges as Medi-Cal redeterminations continue

New data from Covered California shows there has been a surge in new sign ups this year. Over 243,000 Californians have newly enrolled in coverage for 2024, which is a 13% increase over the same period last year.

Covered California says they’ve been able to reach more people from underrepresented groups. According to their data, 31% more Latinos, 19% more Asian Americans and 11% more African Americans have enrolled this year.

One factor contributing to the surge is the influx of people who were taken off the Medi-Cal rolls when California began checking eligibility again, post-pandemic. The annual redetermination was paused during the public health emergency.

Covered California Executive Director Jessica Altman said before the pandemic, only 17% of those transitioning off Medi-Cal were enrolling in Covered California plans. Now, she says over 30% are going to Covered California.

She attributes the increase, in part, to the handoff between Medi-Cal and Covered California and the fact that the coverage is more affordable than ever due to federal adjustments: 1 in 3 of those people is seeing a $0 premium.

Open enrollment only comes once a year and ends on Wednesday at midnight. You can sign up after that day if you have a qualifying life event such as turning 26, losing coverage through an employer, or getting married. You can also sign up if you are disenrolled from Medi-Cal as part of the redetermination process.

You can sign up online on the Covered California website.

If you prefer to talk to a person: you can call a community health navigator.

If you need language assistance or want someone to walk you through the process in-person: you can visit Community Health Works.

I’m interested in how health care policy impacts Sacramento and California, who gets access to care and the issues facing health care providers.
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