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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

Covered California open enrollment underway | Here's what you need to know

This is the only place where California residents can apply to see if the government will to help pay for their health insurance.

CALIFORNIA, USA — Perhaps more popularly known as the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, Covered California has launched its open enrollment period to get Californians health insurance for 2021.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on and flu season is underway, it is important to make sure you and your family are covered.

From Nov. 1, 2020, to Jan. 31, 2021, California residents can purchase health insurance for the upcoming year. During this period only, you can apply without a qualifying life event — a list of criteria which people typically have to meet. This is also the only place where a California resident can apply to see if he or she qualifies for the government to help pay for medical insurance through a tax credit or subsidy.

Here are Covered California's recommended steps to purchasing health insurance through the program:

  1. Start by getting California health insurance quotes and see if you qualify for the government to help you pay for your insurance.
  2. Select a plan. If you aren’t sure which plan would be best, you can take a look at the Obamacare Plans and Prices before you start to get a general idea of cost and benefits.
  3. Submit your online application.

Though the enrollment period extends until late January, Covered California actually recommends getting insurance before Dec. 15. This way, coverage begins on Jan. 1, 2021, which allows you to take also full advantage of your annual medical deductible which works on a calendar year

Those in need of health insurance have a couple of options. You can:

  • Buy a plan through Covered California. If you qualify for a tax credit to help offset your premiums, you may consider buying a plan through the marketplace. Qualifying usually depends on your income and household size.
  • Renew or change your current plan. During the open enrollment period, you can renew your existing plan. You will not have to do anything if you want to keep what you have. But if your current plan is changing—for instance, your primary care physician is leaving the network, or your medications are no longer covered—then you may want to think about switching to a plan that best suits your current needs.
  • 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.

It important to note that enrolling in Medi-Cal is not limited to the open enrollment period. If you are eligible for the insurance program, you can enroll at anytime. The same is true for CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program.

However, if you choose to not purchase health insurance with Covered California's during the open enrollment period, you have to qualify for special enrollment in order to get coverage. Special enrollment only allows certain exceptions: 

  • 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

This is why it is so important to buy health insurance during open enrollment: you may not know where you will be when you suddenly need coverage. 

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