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Covered California extends health insurance enrollment

SACRAMENTO — The unprecedented and challenging times presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is changing the way people live for the foreseeable future.

As job-loss claims hit record highs, more and more Californians will be dealing with a loss of income and their health insurance coverage. Covered California and Medi-Cal are providing a path to coverage for those affected by this pandemic.

Covered California has announced a special enrollment period related to the crisis. Anyone who meets Covered California’s eligibility requirements, which are similar to those in place during the annual open-enrollment period, can sign up for coverage from now through June 30.

“The goal is to have as many people covered as possible to ensure they have access to vitally needed health care,” said Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California. “This is the right thing to do and we to make sure no one is left behind in California during this pandemic.”

Those signing up through Covered California will have access to private health insurance plans with monthly premiums that may be lowered due to federal subsidies and new state financial help that became effective this year. Once a plan is chosen, coverage begins on the first day of the following month — meaning individuals losing job-based coverage will not face a gap in coverage.

That was the case for Jose Gonzalez Fernandez. A 60-year-old Bay Area resident lost his construction job and health insurance at the end of February, but in March he heard on the local news that Covered California’s special-enrollment period would apply to his circumstances.

“I have always had health insurance through my union,” Gonzalez Fernandez said. “It was scary to think that I would not be able to go to the doctor if I got sick or if I catch the coronavirus. I can’t imagine getting sick, not having health insurance and not having money to pay for the medicine and medical services. That truly is scary.”

Gonzalez Fernandez is thrilled to be enrolled in Covered California plan for just $2 a month for him and his wife, Luz. 

“The best thing ever is that I get to keep my same coverage. I get to keep my doctors,” Gonzalez Fernandez said.

Consumers who sign up through CoveredCA.com may find out that they are eligible for no-cost or low-cost coverage through Medi-Cal, for which they can enroll in online. Those eligible for Medi-Cal can have coverage that is immediately effective because California has put a 90-day hold on Medi-Cal renewal reviews, ensuring those already enrolled can continue their coverage. The move also frees up resources to quickly process the expected new enrollments. 

All medically necessary screening and testing for COVID-19 is free of charge. That includes doctor’s office visits as well as network emergency room or urgent care visits when necessary for the purpose of screening and testing for COVID-19. 

In addition, all health plans offered through Covered California and Medi-Cal will provide telehealth options for enrollees, giving individuals the ability to connect with a health care professional by phone or video without having to personally visit a doctor’s office or hospital.

Medi-Cal covers costs associated with COVID-19 in both its managed care plans and with fee-for-service providers. Covered California health plans will help cover costs that arise from any required treatment or hospitalization.

“A core part of our mission is improving access to high-quality health care, and that has never been more important than it is right now in California,” Lee said. “Covered California will help you find a path to the coverage you need for you and your family.”

Consumers can easily find out if they are eligible Medi-Cal or other forms of financial help and see which plans are available in their area by using the CoveredCA.Com Shop and Compare Tool and entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage.Those interested in learning more about their coverage options can also visit www.CoveredCA.com, get free and confidential assistance over the phone, in a variety of languages, from a certified enroller, have a certified enroller call them and help them for free or call Covered California at (800) 300-1506.

Wave Staff Report