California was the first state to pass a law creating its own health insurance “marketplace” after the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The new marketplace, named “Covered California,” will open its virtual doors for business October 1 — great news for the millions of Californians without affordable health insurance.
You will be able to start browsing through the choices in your region for affordable health insurance then, as well as determine if you qualify for financial help and enroll in a plan. If you do so by Dec. 15, coverage will begin Jan. 1.
In addition, California has expanded and simplified Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California) which offers free coverage. Nearly everyone with income below certain limits will be eligible, starting in January 2014, without regard to the current special requirements, such as having a dependent child at home or having a disability.
You can find out if you’re eligible for free Medi-Cal or low-cost private insurance by calling or going online to Covered California. This easy-to-use marketplace is the only place where you and your family may get financial assistance for private insurance on a sliding scale to make health insurance more affordable. For example, individuals with income less than $45,960 a year, and a family of four with income up to $94,200 are eligible for financial help.
And because Covered California chose to standardize health insurance offerings, you will be able to easily compare prices and choose health insurance that best fits your needs and budget. All Covered California insurance covers the same medical services, but plans differ by cost tiers which are labeled like Olympic medals: bronze to platinum, from least to most costly.
Keep in mind that the lower your premium cost upfront, the more you will pay (in co-pays and deductibles) as you use services. On the other hand, paying higher premiums may be the way to go for people who need a lot of medical services. By law, your health insurance can’t be dropped or denied even if you have a pre-existing medical condition, and you can’t be charged more for having a medical condition.
Roughly 2 million Californians are eligible for financial assistance for Covered California insurance, and another nearly 1.5 million newly eligible for Medi-Cal. Have you had trouble getting or affording health insurance? We’d like to hear what your experience has been in getting health insurance to date. If you explore coverage options through Covered California, or actually purchase it, what was your shopping experience? Consumer’s Union wants to know! Tell us about applying for health insurance through Covered California, your experience will help us make sure the law works for you.