Covered California enrollment bus
The Covered California enrollment bus in 2017. Courtesy Covered California

Residents of San Diego and the rest of California are running out of time to sign up for health insurance under Covered California‘s open enrollment period, which ends in a week.

The Jan. 15 deadline will mark the last opportunity for many to get coverage for all of 2019. This year’s deadline is shorter than in previous years, when open enrollment ran through the end of January.

“Covered California knows that many consumers are deadline driven and often wait until the final few days to sign up for health insurance,” said Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee. “We want to make sure they know that this year’s deadline is earlier than it has been in the past, and they must take action in the next week in order to get the peace of mind and protection they deserve in 2019.”

California is one of six Obamacare marketplaces across the nation still signing up consumers through open enrollment, accounting for a quarter of the United States population. California’s Jan. 15 deadline is due to a state law that established that open enrollment would run from Oct. 15 through Jan. 15 each year.

Open enrollment is the one time of the year when consumers can sign up for coverage without needing to meet any conditions.

“Do not wait until the last minute, or let this deadline go past, without checking your options,” Lee said. “In only a few minutes at CoveredCA.com, you can see which plans are available in your area and whether you qualify for financial help to bring the price of coverage within reach.”

Covered California’s announcement comes one day after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced, as his first official act, that he will focus on making health care more affordable.

The governor proposes to make health care more affordable and restore the individual mandate, which was repealed by the federal government in 2019, as part of his goal to continue toward universal coverage.

“We look forward to action from Sacramento in the weeks and months ahead, but today the action is happening in local communities across California where individuals can embrace this reminder from the governor of the importance of coverage and sign up through Jan. 15,” Lee said.

As of Dec. 31, more than 238,000 individuals had signed up and selected a plan during the current open-enrollment period, in line with projections that there would be decline in enrollment due to recent federal policies.

Covered California previously announced that roughly 1.2 million existing consumers had renewed their coverage for 2019.

According to Lee, the majority of uninsured Californians who are eligible for financial help either do not know or mistakenly think they do not qualify. They can find out if they are eligible for financial help and see which plans are available in their area by going to CoveredCA.com, entering their ZIP code, household income and the ages of those who need coverage into Covered California’s Shop and Compare Tool.

They can also get free and confidential enrollment assistance at 700 storefront locations statewide or 16,000 certified enrollers who can offer assistance in understanding the choices and enrolling, including individuals who can assist in other languages. Calls can also be made to the Covered California service center by calling (800) 300-1506.

Depending on their income, some Californians may qualify for the low- cost or no-cost Medi-Cal program.

Covered California is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the Legislature.

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.