As coronavirus cases rise throughout California, health officials announced March 20 that Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, would extend its special enrollment period until the end of June in an effort to provide health insurance to more people.
“The human and economic impacts of the coronavirus will be far-reaching, long-lasting and impacting many Californians’ health and economic security,” Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee said on a conference call with reporters. “And we as a state and nation must rise to that challenge.”
The extension is effective immediately and will allow anyone who is eligible for health care coverage through Covered California — which offers subsidized “Obamacare” care plans to individuals without employer-sponsored health insurance — to sign up until the end of June.
Eligibility is based on federal poverty levels. Individuals making up to $17,237 qualify for MediCal, while those making over $17,327 and up to $49,960 are eligible for a subsidy on a Covered California plan.
Lee also stressed that all screening and testing for the coronavirus is free for anyone with coverage, whether through Covered California, MediCal, or employer-sponsored insurance, and emphasized that Californians who are eligible for MediCal can get insurance effective immediately.
Covered California and MediCal plans also offer telehealth options for patients seeking medical assistance, but who do not need to visit a doctor’s office or the hospital.
MediCal accepts applications year-round, said Jacey Cooper, the California State Medicaid director, and is extending the renewal period for open enrollment for 90 days.
“We are very committed to making sure our beneficiaries have access to the needed care and coverage during this public emergency and reminding everyone their health is our number one priority,” Cooper said.
Health officials said MediCal enrollment has increased and insurance agents have seen a higher volume of requests for assistance as coronavirus-related closures and layoffs take a toll on the economy.
The state received 80,000 unemployment claims on March 17 alone, Gov. Gavin Newsom said, a dramatic increase from the typical daily average of about 2,000 claims.
* Erica Hellerstein is a reporter with The Mercury News. This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.
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