State

ABC’s of your Health: will you be paying less for healthcare coverage in 2020?

Open enrollment for Covered California started on Oct. 15. Covered California launched its open-enrollment bus tour on Nov. 8 to encourage consumers to sign up for health care coverage during the current open-enrollment period which ends on Jan. 15.
Open enrollment for Covered California started on Oct. 15. Covered California launched its open-enrollment bus tour on Nov. 8 to encourage consumers to sign up for health care coverage during the current open-enrollment period which ends on Jan. 15. Daniel Casarez

When Covered California unveiled its preliminary rates for the upcoming 2020 coverage year on July 9, health advocates praised state actions such as shore up and expand the Affordable Care Act that contributed to minimal rate increase for next year’s health premium which translate that most Covered California enrollees to pay less for health insurance in 2020.

The state’s insurance market place announced that the preliminary average rate change for California’s individual market will be 0.8 percent in 2020, which is the lowest premium increase since 2014, and a fraction of the five-year actual average increase of 7.9 percent.

The announcement also highlighted the expected increase in health insurance enrollment of over 225,000 Californians due to the new financial help that was included in the 2019-2020 state budget negotiated last month that will allow a majority of Covered California enrollees to pay less for coverage, as a lower percentage of their income, than they do this year.

“These minimal Covered California rate increases, the lowest in memory, are proof that our state’s actions to defend and improve upon the ACA are working,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, the statewide health care consumer advocacy coalition. “As a result of state actions, most Covered California enrollees will pay less for health insurance, as a lower percent of their income, than they do today, and many more will gain coverage that could not afford it before.”

“More people with health coverage not only helps individuals and families better plan for their financial future, but also helps stabilize the market, lowering costs for everyone,” said Wright. “This announcement shows that California’s leadership on health care has made a real difference and should encourage state policymakers to do more to bring down the cost of coverage and care even further for Californians, and further cut our uninsured rate.”

Covered California officials also revealed how consumers will benefit from new state initiatives and announced that a major carrier will be expanding into new areas and providing consumers with more choice.

“The bold moves by Gov. Newsom and the Legislature will save Californians hundreds of millions of dollars in premiums and provide new financial assistance to middle-income Californians, which will help people get covered and stay covered,” said Peter V. Lee Covered California executive director. “California is building on the success of the Affordable Care Act and bringing quality care and coverage within reach for more people.”

According to Covered California, the significantly lower rate change was driven by two new state affordability initiatives: the restoration of the individual mandate and new state subsidies that an estimated 922,000 consumers will be eligible to receive, which will lower the cost of coverage.

The initiatives are projected to increase the number of Californians getting insurance by an estimated 229,000 people.

“All of the money raised from the mandate goes to fund greater affordability assistance in Covered California, helping to keep our health system strong,” said Wright. “While citizens of other states continue their ongoing attacks on the ACA by the Trump administration, California is showing how to build on our progress to keep premiums in check and expand coverage further.”

The new state initiatives resulted in premium decreases between 2 and 5 percent per carrier as health plans rolled back increases they had added to premiums in 2019 resulting from the federal action of zeroing out the Affordable Care Act’s penalty.

“The premium increase of less than one percent is not a ‘rebound’ from large increases in prior years,” said Lee, “This lower increase follows years of relative stability and will provide big savings to millions of California consumers.”

According to Covered California, for those who enroll through Covered California, nearly nine out of every 10 receive financial help in the form of federal tax credits or subsidies, which will increase in the coming year with the addition of state financial help. Together, they will make health care more affordable.

“The success in keeping premiums in check should encourage California policymakers to make more investments in additional affordability assistance in future budgets. Earlier this year, Covered California modeled a $2 billion investment that could cut the number of uninsured in the individual market in half, and we should make that our next goal, ultimately moving toward universal coverage,” said Wright. “California is leading the nation the way to both build on the ACA, providing tangible financial help to families now, and to do the planning and take the steps to make health care a right for all.”

The proposed rates, negotiated with Covered California, will be filed with regulators and are subject to their final reviews. Covered California will release preliminary rates for California’s 19 rating regions on July 17.

Interested consumers should go to www.CoveredCA.com to find out if they qualify for financial help and find free local help to enroll. They can contact the Covered California service center for enrollment assistance by calling (800) 300-1506.

María G. Ortiz-Briones: 559-441-6782, @TuValleTuSalud

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