With 2021 coming to an end, millions of Americans will need to enroll in health insurance for 2022. The good news is that enhanced federal subsidies will make next year's insurance more affordable for more individuals than they were a year ago for Californians who can't get coverage through Medicare, Medi-Cal, or an employer's health plan.
Open enrollment is the time when people can sign up for health insurance for the next year. You can apply during Open Enrollment even if you haven’t had a qualifying life event.
Table of Contents
- 1 Covered California Open Enrollment begins
- 2 What am I buying?
- 3 What is a qualified health plan?
- 4 What is Covered California?
- 5 What does the California health exchange do?
- 6 The Obama Care mandate: What is required?
- 7 How do I enroll in a Covered California marketplace health plan?
- 8 Group medical insurance plans on the California health exchange
- 9 How much will it cost me?
- 10 Which plan is right for me?
- 11 What if I already have coverage?
- 12 When do I have to decide?
- 13 What if I want to apply and it’s not Open Enrollment?
- 14 What are your options during Covered California Open Enrollment?
- 15 Which health insurance options don’t use Open Enrollment?
- 16 Covered California Open Enrollment period for 2022 begins – Here’s who qualifies
- 17 The bottom line
Covered California Open Enrollment begins
Remember that, with a few exceptions, adults in California are required to maintain health insurance coverage. This is true whether or not you have access to a health plan through your employer. A tax penalty of hundreds to thousands of dollars might be imposed if you do not obtain coverage.
If you’ve never shopped for insurance before, the process can be intimidating, especially if you don’t have an employer that can help you narrow down your options and cover a portion of the cost. Here are a few pointers on how to enroll in Covered California.
Covered California, the insurance marketplace created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act for consumers who aren’t covered by a group health plan, will open for business on Monday. You can enroll online, over the phone, or at one of the dozens of offices operated by insurance “navigators” around Southern California. If you want to work with a navigator, call ahead before going because many of them have limited in-person interaction due to the epidemic.
What am I buying?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) aimed to eliminate shoddy insurance policies that didn’t cover some high-cost treatments, leaving customers who needed them bankrupt. As a result, every plan sold in state marketplaces like Covered California must be comprehensive, meaning it must cover all ten types of care deemed necessary by the federal government.
However, while all of the insurance covers the same services, they are not identical. One distinction is the percentage of total annual medical costs that they will cover. That isn’t always your whole cost; it is based on the average of the entire population. The premiums will be greater if the policy pays a higher proportion.
The offerings are separated into four tiers: Bronze, which covers 60% of the average total; Silver, which covers 70% of the average total; Gold, which covers 80% of the average total; and Platinum, which covers 90% of the average total. Within those tiers, there are two Bronze plans — one traditional, the other a “high deductible” plan designed to be used in conjunction with a health savings account — and four Silver plans, the deductibles and copays of which are determined by your income.
Covered California has standardized the policies such that they all offer the same coverage, copays, and deductibles within each tier (and sub-tier in Silver and Bronze) to make comparing the plans easier. As a result, customers can concentrate on fewer factors when making a decision: how much they intend to spend on healthcare next year, for example.
What is a qualified health plan?
Californians must be enrolled in a qualifying health plan, which meets the government’s requirements for basic essential coverage, to be in compliance with the mandate. The primary coverage requirement is that the insurance covers the ten essential benefits, which include preventative treatments, prescription drug coverage, and maternity and newborn care. A grandfathered plan, which is a medical plan that was in effect before March 23, 2010, when the mandate was passed and has not undergone major changes, can still be a qualifying health plan without the minimum essential benefits. Covered California, Medi-Cal, Medicare, group insurance, a military plan, or off-exchange directly are all options for qualified health plans.
What is Covered California?
The government body that offers subsidized Obamacare plans in California is the Covered California Health Exchange. The California Health Exchange was established to help citizens and legal residents in obtaining marketplace coverage in accordance with the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”). When the law was established in 2010, each of the 50 states had to determine whether to build a state-controlled health insurance exchange or use a federally run exchange to enroll people. This state decided to construct its own exchange, which they named “Covered California.”
What does the California health exchange do?
Californians can use the Exchange to help them comply with the Obamacare mandate. It assists people and families in obtaining health coverage that includes the law’s minimum necessary provisions. Through the Exchange, certain carriers have been certified to offer subsidized Obama Care Insurance and Prices plans as well as dental plans. These Covered California plans are eligible to sell insurance both on and off the Exchange. However, if a qualifying consumer purchases a medical plan through the marketplace, rates may be lower. Covered Ca qualify people with a family income below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (“FPL”) for financial help, often known as a “Subsidy,” which lowers their premium.
In addition, if an individual’s income is between 138 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty level, the State Exchange may be able to qualify them for further savings on medical services. These additional savings are known as “Cost Sharing Reductions.” To be eligible for a subsidy and possibly cost-sharing reductions, you must meet Covered California’s income requirements and not be supplied affordable, full-coverage healthcare through an employer, Medicare, or another source. The State Marketplace, a Certified Insurance Agent, or a Certified Enrollment Counselor are the only places where you can enroll.
The Obama Care mandate: What is required?
The “mandate” refers to a federal statute that mandates all citizens and legal residents of the United States to have adequate medical coverage. Off-exchange or through Covered California, this medical coverage is available. The Affordable Care Act, or Obama Care, is another name for the mandate. Visit Obama Care California for additional information. Americans and legal residents are compelled to undertake one of the following under the mandate:
- Become a member of a qualified healthcare plan.
- At tax time, you might claim an exemption from the mandate.
- Pay a penalty for not having health insurance when filing your taxes.
How do I enroll in a Covered California marketplace health plan?
At open enrollment, California state health insurance applications are accepted once a year. The next open enrollment period takes place from October to January. You can apply for a new plan or switch Covered California plans during this time. You do not need a compelling cause to apply. You will not be able to apply for Obamacare coverage until the next open enrollment session if you miss this deadline. There are certain exceptions.
If any of the following apply to you, you may apply for Covered California health insurance outside of open enrollment:
- An involuntary loss of coverage, relocation, a change in marital status, or the birth of a child are all examples of qualifying life events. You must apply for a special enrolment within 60 days of the event date.
- You are an Alaska Native or a member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe. You are not eligible for the open enrollment period. If desired, you may apply for or alter Covered California plans once a month.
- You are a Medi-Cal recipient. You can apply at any time of the year.
Get California health insurance rates first. Choose your preferred plan and fill out the online application. You can find out if you qualify for Medi-Cal by visiting www.coveredca.com or calling your local Medi-Cal office.
You are not officially enrolled until you pay the first month’s premium after applying. Your application will not be processed if it is not received by the deadline.
The State Insurance Exchange will electronically check your identification, citizenship or immigration status, and income as part of the application procedure. Other government agencies’ records will be utilized. Your application may be processed in one of the following ways if Covered California is unable to verify your information:
- Your application may be designated as “conditionally eligible.” You will be covered for the following 90 days, but you will be required to show supporting documentation to continue receiving insurance or a subsidy.
- Instead of the health plan you requested through Covered California, your application may be handled for Medi-Cal insurance. This action is usually made if your prior year’s IRS income records were lower than the income indicated on your application.
Health for California Insurance Center is licensed with the Department of Insurance and Covered California. HFCIC is a Covered California Storefront and is one of the largest Covered California enrollment centers in the state.
Group medical insurance plans on the California health exchange
If you operate a business, you might be able to get group health insurance in California. This allows you to provide coverage from various carriers while only having to pay one payment. Whether purchased through the State Exchange or not, all group health Covered California plans will have the same price.
How much will it cost me?
Before you choose between the tiers of insurance, find out if you qualify for discounted premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures.
For starters, you won’t be eligible for Covered California subsidies if you have access to a comprehensive health plan via your workplace that costs less than 8.25 percent of your yearly salary. If you’re living in the country illegally, you won’t be eligible for subsidies, but if you fulfill the income requirements and are 25 or younger, 50 or older, or presently or recently pregnant, you might be eligible for Medi-Cal.
Everyone else is technically eligible, albeit your subsidy amount is determined by your income. After Congress passed and President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan in the middle of 2021, those subsidies increased considerably. The hike will last until 2022, and Biden’s $1.75 billion Build Back Better program will extend the higher subsidies for another three years. (However, the “cost-sharing” subsidies that lower out-of-pocket expenses remain unaltered; they are only accessible to those earning up to two-and-a-half times the poverty line.)
Anyone earning up to 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold — in other words, up to $19,320 for a single person — can get coverage for $1 per month under the new program. Starting Jan. 1, the state will cover the cost, allowing an estimated 700,000 people to acquire Silver or Bronze-level coverage with no monthly charges. Premiums for households with more resources are set at steadily increasing percentages of their salaries, such as 2% for those earning twice the poverty level, 6% for those earning three times the poverty level, and 8.5 percent for those earning four times the poverty level or more.
According to a study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, the additional subsidies will enable 135,000 Californians to obtain insurance in 2022, while also lowering the costs for an additional 1.5 million enrollees — about 150,000 of whom previously did not qualify for subsidies because their incomes were above the previous cutoff.
Keep in mind that the actual subsidy amount you’ll receive is determined by the cost of the Silver tier’s second-least-expensive plan that corresponds to your income level. So, depending on whether the plan you choose has lower deductibles or greater out-of-pocket costs than the benchmark, your premiums might be a larger or lower proportion of your income if you sign up for a different plan.
Which plan is right for me?
Choosing a plan is a bit of a gamble; whether you save money or spend more in 2022 is mostly determined by how much care you’ll require. A Gold or Platinum plan may be a better choice than a Bronze or Silver plan if you know you’ll require a lot of expensive care. A plan with cheap premiums and high out-of-pocket expenditures makes more sense if you’re healthy and have few medical requirements.
Another option is to choose the cheapest Bronze plan, which has a $7,000 deductible for individuals and $14,000 for families, and set up a health savings account to pay for any lab tests, outpatient services, or hospital care you may require before your insurance kicks in. (Preventive care and three visits to a primary care physician are covered by the plan.)
According to Louise Norris, a professional health insurance broker and analyst for healthinsurance.org, “the prevailing opinion is that HSA-qualified plans are only good for young, healthy people without kids.” “The total expenditures may be lower” on a high-deductible plan with a high copay if you know you’ll have high enough medical bills to reach the out-of-pocket maximum, she said.
Still, these programs need you to be able and willing to save money in a health savings account, she noted. As a result, you must be honest with yourself about it. “It can always be a tense situation” if you’re continuously withdrawing money from the account, she said.
There are two criteria to consider once you’ve determined which plan best handles your expected out-of-pocket costs, according to Norris.
The first is this: Which doctors are in the network of a healthcare plan? Every plan has its list of doctors, some of which are larger than others, however, there may be some overlap. In addition, some HMO plans require you to see your allocated primary care physician before seeing a specialist. Regardless, seeing a doctor who isn’t part of the plan’s network will normally cost you extra, so if you want to keep your current doctors, be sure they’re part of the plan’s network.
The second inquiry, according to Norris, is: What drugs are included in the plan’s drug formulary? Each insurer compiles its list of completely covered, partially covered, and uncovered prescription medications. “You do want to examine how it’s covered on the different plans if you’re using a particular prescription,” Norris added.
What if I already have coverage?
Covered Current enrollees’ plans are automatically renewed until they choose a different one. However, many people who renew their policies may see significant increases in premiums, despite the fact that average premiums would only climb by 1.8 percent in 2022.
There are two things at play here. In 2021, Californians who earned unemployment benefits were eligible for additional premium subsidies, which will no longer be accessible the following year. In addition, Covered California supplied a year’s worth of extra American Rescue Plan cash in only eight months; the reduction will be smaller if the money is spread out over the entire year.
Even if you’re satisfied with your existing coverage, notify Covered California of any changes in your income, as this may influence the amount of assistance you’re eligible for.
When do I have to decide?
Open enrollment will continue through Jan. 31, 2022. But if you want your new plan to go into effect right at the start of the year, you have to sign up by Dec. 31.
What if I want to apply and it’s not Open Enrollment?
Only special enrollment qualifies you to purchase an insurance plan outside of open enrollment. The Special Enrollment Period is the name given to this period of time (SEP). You can apply for health insurance under this exception 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 parent’s 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 canceled the coverage.
What are your options during Covered California Open Enrollment?
Depending on your current situation, you have the following options.
- Covered California is where you can get a plan. If you qualify for a tax credit to help offset your premiums, you may wish to purchase a plan through the marketplace. Your ability to qualify is usually determined by your household size and income. Your household’s total income must be between 128% and 400% of the federal poverty threshold or FPL.
- You can either renew or adjust your current plan. You can renew your current plan throughout the open enrollment period. If you want to keep what you have, you won’t have to do anything. However, if your current plan is changing — for example, if your primary care physician is leaving the network or if your meds aren’t on the list of covered pharmaceuticals — you may wish to switch to a plan that better meets your current needs.
- Apply for Medi-Cal. If your income is less than 128 percent of the federal poverty level, you are eligible for Medi-Cal, California’s Medicaid program.
Which health insurance options don’t use Open Enrollment?
In California, most health insurers use an open enrollment program. There are, however, a few exceptions:
- Medi-Cal: Enrollment in Medi-Cal is not limited to the open enrollment period. You can enroll in Medi-Cal at any time if you are qualified.
- CHIP: The Children’s Health Insurance Program does not have a set enrollment period.
Covered California Open Enrollment period for 2022 begins – Here’s who qualifies
According to Covered California, over 70% of consumers would pay less than $10 a month if everyone bought the cheapest plan.
The ability to scroll indefinitely has been enabled. The nation’s largest state-run health insurance marketplace opened for business on Monday and will close at the end of January.
Covered Individual health insurance policies are sold in California to persons who are unable to obtain coverage through their employer. Some persons are entitled to significant savings on their monthly premiums based on their income. Discounts are available to households earning more than $100,000 each year.
Covered California will provide plans for 2022 from twelve different insurance firms. The number of options you have is determined by where you live. According to Covered California, everyone will have at least two choices. Across the country, more than 12.2 million people are enrolled in state and federal markets, with 1.6 million in California.
People who don’t have insurance through their workplace or Medicare should go to CoveredCA.com, according to Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California. This includes persons who are uninsured or who are considering purchasing insurance straight from providers.
He estimates that 100,000 people in the state are uninsured. However, because of increased subsidies, nearly 85% of those people will be able to “receive
superb health coverage” without having to pay a premium.
Xavier Becerra, the Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, spoke at a news conference in Sacramento on Monday to kick off the open enrollment period. The only thing people should be concerned about, he continued, is the quality of their health care, not the expense.
Individual health insurance policies are sold by Covered California to consumers who are unable to obtain coverage through their employer. You should double-check if you fear you can’t afford health insurance. Financial support is now accessible for middle-income consumers who were previously ineligible for federal assistance through the American Rescue Plan. This means that families with annual incomes of more than $100,000 may be eligible for financial assistance through covered California open enrollment.