Covered California

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Covered California Grants Special Enrollment Through April

Certified specialist helps a consumer apply to Covered California at a free enrollment fair at Pasadena City College. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Certified specialist helps a consumer apply to Covered California at a free enrollment fair at Pasadena City College. (David McNew/Getty Images)

Covered California will offer a special extension to buy health insurance through the marketplace for people who say they weren’t aware they would face a tax penalty for being uninsured.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee announced the extension Friday. He said the special enrollment will start on Monday and run through April 30. People must attest to the fact that they were not aware of the penalty, which they can do when they apply on the Covered California website.

Lee said as many as 600,000 people may face a penalty under the Affordable Care Act. While the extension does not exempt people from paying the 2014 tax penalty, it would help them avoid bigger penalties in 2015. Continue reading

Covered California: You Still Have A Few Days to Sign Up

Screenshot of Covered California's website.

Screenshot of Covered California’s website.

Nearly 474,000 people signed up for health insurance on Covered California, the state’s marketplace, by the deadline Sunday night, officials announced today. But if you didn’t sign up, you still have a chance.

As Covered California has done in the past, the agency is allowing a few extra days for those who have started the application process, but not yet finished. That extra time was announced last week.

On Tuesday, executive director Peter Lee added a couple more days to the deadline. Now people have until this Sunday to finish applications. The change aligns Covered California with a federal extension announced over the weekend. Continue reading

Covered California Considering Enrollment ‘Contingency Plans’ Tied to Tax Deadline

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

Covered California open enrollment ends this Sunday. Sort of.

Special enrollment for people who did not know about the tax penalty?    

For starters, the agency announced Thursday that people who start an application by this Sunday get until next Friday, Feb. 20, to finish it. That’s similar to steps that Covered California has taken in the past. 

But advocates have long been frustrated with the timing of open enrollment. That’s because of how penalties for lacking insurance are assessed — on your taxes. The tax deadline is not for another two months, April 15. Continue reading

As Covered California Enrollment Winds Down, a Push for HIV Prevention

By Heather Boerner

You’ve got just three days left to choose a new health plan under Covered California.

Choose carefully — especially if you want to take the only pill approved by the Food and Drug Administration to block HIV.

“Some plans may look appealing because their premiums are low,” Dr. Hyman Scott, who specializes in HIV at San Francisco General Hospital, said he tells patients interested in the drug, Truvada. “But the copays and deductibles, especially for what are often considered specialty drugs, can be really high.”

Enrollment in Covered California closes Sunday. Local doctors, social workers and navigators are helping the people most at risk for HIV figure out how — and if — they can afford the drug, which costs $13,000 a year, according to the drug’s maker, Gilead Sciences. Continue reading

Schools Helping Families Enroll in Covered California and Medi-Cal

A parent talks to a health care enrollment specialist at a health insurance sign-up event at Natomas Unified in Sacramento. (Courtesy: The Children's Partnership)

A parent talks to a health care enrollment specialist at a health insurance sign-up event at Natomas Unified in Sacramento. (Courtesy: The Children’s Partnership)

By Jane Meredith Adams, EdSource

With huge numbers of California children still uninsured, schools are beginning to take the lead in letting families know that affordable health care coverage is available.

The deadline to sign up for a Covered California plan is this Sunday.
In school libraries and courtyards from Sacramento to Los Angeles and beyond, trained enrollment counselors have been invited to set up folding tables, commandeer desk space and corral parents before the Feb. 15 sign-up deadline for Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.

And the outreach will increase. Under a new state law, all California schools must include in their 2015-16 enrollment packets information about options for health care coverage and how to get help with the sign-up process. The law, Assembly Bill 2706, authored by Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, is intended to reduce the number of children who are eligible for health insurance subsidies but remain uninsured. Continue reading

Latino Obamacare Enrollment Keeping Pace

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

Screenshot from the Covered California website.

By April Dembosky

California’s health insurance marketplace is holding steady in signing Latinos up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act: 28 percent of people who have enrolled in a plan so far this season are Latino, according to data released at Covered California’s board meeting on Thursday.

That’s exactly the same breakdown as last year, when the first open enrollment period closed. Latinos make up more than 60 percent of the uninsured population in California.

However, of the people who have started an application but haven’t picked a plan, 50 percent are Latino. Continue reading

Filing Your Taxes? Here’s How To Prove You Have Health Insurance

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News

In addition to the normal thrills and chills of the income tax filing season, this year consumers have the added excitement of figuring out how the health law figures in their 2014 taxes.

The good news is that for most people the only change to their normal tax filing routine will be to check the box on their Form 1040 that says they had health insurance all year.

“Someone who had employer-based coverage or Medicaid or Medicare, that’s all they have to do,” says Tricia Brooks, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

The law requires people to have “minimum essential coverage,” but most types of insurance qualify. Continue reading

Why Obamacare Means One of the Most Complicated Tax Seasons Ever

This is the first year people without health insurance could face big penalties. (Getty Images)

This is the first year people without health insurance could face big penalties. (Getty Images)

By April Dembosky

Most days in early January, tax preparation offices are dead. Most people won’t get their W-2 or other tax documents until later this month.

It’s all about the penalty for not having health insurance.

But at one H&R Block office in San Francisco, office manager Sue Ellen Smith is expecting things to pick up fast. The IRS commissioner declared back in November that this tax season will be one of the most complicated ever.

“This year taxes and health care intersect in a brand-new way,” Smith said.

This is the first year that people who do not have health insurance will have to pay a fine, and Smith says that fine could be bigger than most people expect.

She takes the example of Ray and Vicky. They’re a fictional couple from an H&R Block flier. Together they earn $65,000 a year. Neither has health insurance. Continue reading

Health Law Mandate in Effect, Hits Employers Unevenly

(Getty Images)

Business owners who employ more low-wage workers, such as restaurants and retail, are likely to feel the employer mandate the most. (Getty Images)

By Emily Bazar, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

Remember those end-of-the world predictions from Nostradamus, the ancient Mayans and Pat Robertson that we somehow survived?

“If I’m a restaurant owner and don’t offer coverage to my employees now, my world will change a lot after Jan. 1 and it will change for the workers as well.”  

The “employer mandate” may be Obamacare’s version of that.

One of the most-feared aspects of the Affordable Care Act took effect Jan. 1 after some delay, and requires large businesses to provide health coverage to their employees or face financial penalties.

Despite the concerns surrounding the mandate, it won’t hit all businesses hard, nor will it provide coverage to all uninsured workers. Instead, just like the rest of Obamacare, its impacts will be felt unevenly, among some industries and employees more than others.

Think restaurants, retail and low-wage workers.

Q: My employer doesn’t offer health insurance. Will that change under Obamacare?

A: It all depends. Continue reading

Deciding Whether That Covered California Subsidy Is Worth the Hassle

Cecily Liu, 37, with her three children – Nolan Lin, 6 months, Fiona Lin, 3, and Larissa Lin, 5 at their house in Richmond, Calif. The self-employed accountant said signing up her family through Covered California was a hassle (Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News).

Cecily Liu, 37, with her son at their house in Richmond, Calif. The self-employed accountant said signing up her family through Covered California was a hassle. (Heidi de Marco/Kaiser Health News)

By Andrew Wang, Kaiser Health News

With the deadline looming to re-enroll in California’s insurance exchange, Kuei Lin Liu faced a tough question: Do I want to go through this all over again?

After a year of bureaucratic snags, data glitches and inexplicably dropped coverage, Liu wondered whether Covered California was worth the effort.

“I’m so frustrated right now,” she said. “I spent the last year trying to work out this mess.”

The 37-year-old Richmond resident first enrolled in the exchange last fall, when she left a senior accounting position at a big corporation and the benefits that came with it. With two daughters under 5 and a son due in May, Liu said going uninsured was not an option.

So Liu and her husband Qing Lin, a stay-at-home dad, signed up for a benefits-rich platinum plan from Blue Shield of California. With a projected income of about $90,000 from Liu’s tax preparation business, the family was eligible for a subsidy that covered a third of their nearly $1,600-a-month premium. Continue reading