- With the final open-enrollment deadline of the year approaching on Jan. 31, a record high 1.7 million Californians have already signed up for comprehensive coverage through Covered California.
- Enrollment increased by more than 350,000 people over the past two years, with financial help from the American Rescue Plan lowering costs, and the pandemic highlighting the importance of both health insurance and addressing disparities.
- California made major progress in closing health equity gaps by cutting the uninsured rate among Chinese Americans by over 73 percent.
- Covered California has seen significant increases in enrollment over the past two years in the Chinese American community, increasing 23 percent since 2020.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — With the final deadline for the current open-enrollment period quickly approaching on Jan. 31, Covered California announced that 1,744,000 people have signed up for coverage, which is a new record high for the start of a coverage year (see Figure 1: Covered California Plan Selections to Start a Coverage Year). The total represents an increase of more than 350,000 people compared to the start of 2020, as Covered California has used the increased financial help from the American Rescue Plan to expand coverage and meet the needs of people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having quality coverage, and with a surge of COVID-19 infections across the state, now is the time to make sure you have health insurance,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California.
“We want to encourage anyone who is currently going without health care coverage to check out their options and sign up so they can be covered in 2022.”
The American Rescue Plan Is Helping Californians Get Covered and Stay Covered
The record-high number of enrollees is being made possible by the American Rescue Plan, the federal response to the pandemic, which expanded the amount of financial help available to consumers. The law builds on the Affordable Care Act and work done in California, where Gov. Newsom and the Legislature established a state subsidy program that provided more financial help and — for the first time — extended it to middle-income consumers. Due to the American Rescue Plan, two-thirds of Covered California enrollees are eligible to get coverage from a brand-name plan for 2022 for $10 or less per month. In addition, financial help for middle-income consumers is lowering many of their premiums by hundreds of dollars every month.
“California paved the way for the American Rescue Plan, and the increased financial help is allowing more people to get covered and stay covered,” Lee said. “That’s critical because a quality health plan through Covered California gives you access to needed primary care or mental health services, and protects you from a six-figure hospital bill if you get sick or injured.”
The Historic Reduction of the Uninsured Rate in California
California has reduced its uninsured rate by more than any other state in the nation since 2014, when coverage first became available through the Affordable Care Act. The decrease has benefited every major ethnic group in the state and been driven by the state’s expansion of Medi-Cal and the enrollment in Covered California. Between 2013 and 2020, the uninsured rate among Chinese Americans in California has been cut by nearly three-quarters. The uninsured rate for California Latinos has been cut by more than half, and the uninsured rate for African Americans have dropped by nearly two-thirds.
Since the start of the pandemic in 2020, Covered California has played a critical role in expanding coverage to reduce the uninsured rate even further. Covered California established special-enrollment periods to help people get insured and benefit from the new financial help included in the American Rescue Plan.
As a result, Covered California has seen significant increases in enrollment among communities of color, including among Chinese Americans (23 percent), Latinos (34 percent) and African Americans (a 56 percent increase).
The Open-Enrollment Deadline Is Quickly Approaching
Covered California joined Chinese American medical professionals and Certified Enroller KCAL Insurance to urge people to enroll before the final open-enrollment deadline. Despite the dramatic expansion of health care coverage for nearly all AANHPI communities in California, significant disparities remain.
While the number of Chinese Americans enrolled in Covered California has increased 23 percent since 2020, there are still thousands who remain uninsured. Kenny Chang from KCAL insurance has been a key partner for Covered California, enrolling tens of thousands of Californians, and providing bilingual assistance to the Chinese American community in Southern California since the first open enrollment.
“With the American Rescue Plan savings available, there has never been a better time for people to get health insurance coverage. With the average cost of COVID hospitalization as high as $127,000 and the tax penalty for not having health insurance now up to $2,400 for a family of four in California, getting insured is not only the best way to protect your family’s health and future, it’s also a smart financial decision,” said Chang.
Dr. Jasmine Wang, Emergency Medicine Specialist at Pomona Valley Medical Hospital, has seen firsthand the impact of being uninsured in the emergency room.
“Having health insurance and seeing a primary care doctor before they ever have to see an emergency department is in every family’s best interest,” said Wang. “Preventive care and taking advantage of benefits and screenings, which are a part of all Covered California plans, is key to staying healthy. That’s why affordable and linguistically appropriate health coverage helps improve community health, and will put us in the best position to get on top of COVID-19 and be prepared for future challenges.”
Covered California’s open-enrollment period runs through Jan. 31 — unlike the federal deadline, which ended on Jan. 15 for states that use healthcare.gov. Consumers who sign up by Jan. 31 will have their coverage start on Feb. 1.
Consumers Can Easily Check Out Their Eligibility and Options at CoveredCA.com
Those interested in applying for coverage can explore their options — and find out whether they are eligible for financial help — in just a few minutes by using the Shop and Compare Tool at CoveredCA.com. All they need to do is enter their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage to find out which plans are available in their area.
In addition to signing up consumers through its website, Covered California also partners with certified and licensed enrollers who provide free and confidential help throughout the state. Covered California works with more than 11,000 Licensed Insurance Agents, who have established more than 500 storefronts in communities across California. Consumers can visit https://www.coveredca.com/support/contact-us/ and search for the agent nearest them.
Consumers can also call Covered California at (800) 300-1506 in English, (800) 300-1533 in Mandarin or (800) 339-8938 in Cantonese and get information or enroll by phone.
Covered California’s online enrollment portal and certified enrollers will also help people find out whether they are eligible for Medi-Cal. Medi-Cal enrollment is available year-round, and the coverage will begin the day after a person signs up. In addition, people can apply for Medi-Cal online or by picking up an application at one of the many county resource centers throughout the region.
About Covered California
Covered California is the state’s health insurance marketplace, where Californians can find affordable, high-quality insurance from top insurance companies. Covered California is the only place where individuals who qualify can get financial assistance on a sliding scale to reduce premium costs. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Depending on their income, some consumers may qualify for the low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal program.
Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the health insurance marketplace work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the Legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.