Covered California 2020 Open Enrollment Period: October 15-January 31

Open enrollment is the period during which people can purchase health insurance for the upcoming year. During Open Enrollment, you can apply for health insurance or change your current plan without a “qualifying life event” (*see below for description).

Open Enrollment for Covered California begins on October 15, 2019, and continues until January 31, 2020. You have until December 15, 2019, to make changes to your health plan for coverage beginning January 1, 2020, and until January 31, 2020, for coverage beginning February 1, 2020.

*The only ways to buy an insurance plan outside of open enrollment is to qualify for special enrollment. This exception allows you to apply for health insurance if you’ve had certain qualifying life events, such as:

Losing your job

Moving to a new state

Getting married or divorced

Becoming a widow or widower

Aging off your parents’ plan

Having a new baby

Note that you won’t be eligible for special enrollment if you lost your previous health plan because you failed to pay your monthly premiums or if you voluntarily cancelled the coverage.

What’s new at Covered California

There are a couple of major changes for plan year 2020 due to a new state law that has taken effect:

—For the first time ever, almost a million people could receive additional financial help from the State of California to lower the monthly cost of health insurance, and more for those already receiving financial assistance.

—To avoid paying a penalty, California residents must have health coverage that meets state requirements unless they qualify for an exemption.

Depending on your current situation, you have the following options.

—Buy a plan through Covered California. You may want to buy a plan through the marketplace if you qualify for a tax credit to help offset your premiums. Qualifying usually depends on your income and household size. Your total household income must be between 128% and 400% of the federal poverty level. 

—Renew or change your current plan. During the open enrollment period, you can renew your existing plan. You won’t have to do anything if you want to keep what you have. But if your current plan is changing — for instance, your primary care provider is leaving the network, or your drugs aren’t in the list of covered medications — then you may want to switch to a plan that best suits your current needs. If you need to change policies, the open enrollment period is the best time. 

—Enroll in Medi-Cal. If your income is below 128% of the federal poverty level, you qualify for Medi-Cal, which is Medicaid for Californians.

Most health insurers in California use some sort of open enrollment program. But there are a few exceptions:

Medi-Cal: Medi-Cal doesn’t limit enrollment to the open enrollment period. If you’re eligible for Medi-Cal, you’re allowed to enroll anytime.

CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program doesn’t limit enrollment to a specific time, either.

Short-Term Plans: Short-term health insurance such as traveler’s insurance doesn’t follow open enrollment, either. The plans are available all year round.

Health Care Sharing Plans: Health sharing plans allow you to enroll at any time of the year. You cannot get subsidies with these plans but they often provide lower base pricing for people who do not qualify for a government discount.

For more information and to enroll in or renew an existing health insurance plan, go to CoveredCA.com.

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